Special Edition: 2021 Legislative Recap

The Ed-Watch series is designed to increase access to information on what decisions are being made regarding public education in Clark County and Nevada.

This special edition of Ed Watch provides a recap of 2021 legislative actions related to education, plus some of our reflections on key bills that will impact students and schools.

Nevada Legislature

What is the Nevada Legislature and what are they responsible for?

The Nevada Legislature is a public body comprised of elected leaders from communities across the State. Their purpose is to enact laws and regulations for the State of Nevada. Nevada has a citizen legislature, which means that legislators are not career politicians, but rather regular citizens who are dedicated to all citizens of Nevada. There are 21 Senators and 42 Assembly representatives. 

Click here to find your Assembly and Senate Representatives.

When does the Nevada Legislature meet?

Regular sessions of the Nevada Legislature are held every other year (in odd-numbered years). They convene on the first Monday in February after the election of members of the Senate and Assembly. Sessions are limited to 120 calendar days. If the legislature is to meet outside of the regularly scheduled session, it is called a Special Session and can be called to action by the Governor or by a two-thirds vote by legislators from each house.

The 81st Session of the Nevada Legislature began on February 1, 2021, and ended at 12:13am on June 1, 2021.

In addition to their ongoing representational duties, members of the legislature are also involved in committee work between sessions. These committees hold public hearings, direct research, and deliberate on proposed legislation for the next session of the legislature.

Five (5) Bills We Look Forward to Seeing in Action:

1.) Public Charter School Training & Transparency (Assembly Bill 419)

This bill increases public charter school transparency, improves governance practices, and codifies equitable authorizing practices. 

Highlights of the bill: 

  • This bill requires the public charter school sponsor to establish standards for the governance of each school it sponsors and provide governance training to the governing body of each school. Each member of the governing body must complete this training before the opening of the school and every three years thereafter. 
  • This bill requires the State Public Charter School Authority to provide governance training to each member of the governing board of a charter school and every member of the State Public Charter School Authority. 
  • Public charter schools must now post whether they are operated by a charter management organization (non-profit entity) or an educational management organization (for profit-entity) on their website. Schools contracted with educational management organizations have an increased responsibility with reporting on their finances.
  • If the governing body of a public charter school submits a request to the charter school sponsor for an amendment to the contract, the sponsor must consider the academic, financial, and organizational performance of any schools that hold a contract with the operators. 
  • If an individual would like to serve on the governing body of a public charter school, they must disclose any conflicts of interest, including connections to a charter management organization, educational management organization, or contract to provide services at the charter school. 

Regarding Accountability:

  • On or before December 15th of each odd-numbered year, the sponsor of a charter school must submit a report to the Legislative Committee on Education. An additional report must be submitted if the charter school has received one of the two lowest performance ratings within the past three consecutive school years or the governing board does not plan to close the charter school or change sponsorship. 

2.) Anti-Discrimination Bill (Assembly Bill 371)

This bill prohibits discrimination within the Nevada public education system based on race, including bullying and cyber-bullying and requires that a governing body develop restorative practices for both victims and perpetrators of discrimination based on race. This bill establishes the fact that a safe, respectful learning environment is essential and necessary to achieve academic success, and any form of discrimination based on race, bullying, or cyber-bullying interferes with the ability for teachers to teach and students to learn. 

Highlights of the bill: 

  • Pupils or parents and legal guardians of pupils who witness an act of discrimination based on race may report the incident to an administrator. 
  • All pupils are entitled to express themselves in a manner consistent with the rights guaranteed by the 1st and 14th amendments. 
  • Any teacher, administrator, coach, staff member, or pupil who tolerates or engages in an act of discrimination based on race, bullying, or cyber-bullying will be held accountable for their actions. 
  • The Nevada Department of Education shall develop a policy, informational pamphlet, and training program for all school districts and schools to provide a safe and respectful learning environment that is free of discrimination based on race, bullying, and cyber-bullying. 
    • Members of the State Board, members of governing bodies, and school administrators must complete this training. 
    • The administrator of each school must develop a school safety team. 
  • The bill also creates the Discrimination and Bullying Prevention Account in the State General Fund. 

3.) Mining Tax (Assembly Bill 495)

This bill creates a new tiered tax structure for large mining companies. The new excise tax on the gross revenues of gold and silver companies will generate additional funding to benefit public education in the 2023-2025 biennium. It is estimated that the new tax will bring in an extra $150 million to $170 million per biennium, and the bill will earmark more than $300 million for education over the biennium. 

This bill also sends $200 million from the American Rescue Plan dollars to the Nevada Department of Education and $15 million from the American Rescue Plan dollars to Title I charter schools to help combat learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

4.) Back on Track Relief Funds (Senate Bill 173

This bill is intended to help deal with learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill allocates funding for summer school. 

Highlights of the bill: 

  • No later than 30 days after the effective date of this bill, the Board of Trustees and State Public Charter School Authority may submit a plan to address learning loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to the Superintendent of Public Instruction. 
  • The plan must include: 
    • Option for pupils to attend summer school in person or virtually. 
  • Summer school specifics: 
    • Schools must allow all interested students to attend summer school, including students with disabilities and English language learners. 
    • Must provide transportation and breakfast and lunch. 
    • On or before November 30, 2021, the Board of Trustees and the State Public Charter School Authority shall submit a report on their plan to address learning loss. 

5.) Pupil Centered Funding Plan (Senate Bill 439)

The Pupil Centered Funding Plan was developed to replace the 54-year-old Nevada Plan. The Nevada Plan is the approach by which the legislature allocates and distributes funds to school districts across the state. Legislators also allocated $500 million in state funds to address cuts from the previous legislative session. 

The new plan: 

  • Provides weighted funding for any pupil who is an English language learner, an at-risk pupil, or a gifted and talented pupil. Weights are extra allotments of funding on top of the base per-pupil amount to address students with additional needs. 
    • If a pupil belongs to more than one category, the pupil must receive only the weighted funding for the single category to which the pupil belongs which has the largest multiplier or the statewide multiplier, whichever is larger.
    • Average base per-pupil amount: $6,954 per student in Fiscal Year 2022 and $7,090 in Fiscal Year 2023. 
    • 50% percent weight for English language learners (1.5 multiplier), 50% weight for at-risk students (1.5 multiplier), and 12% weight for gifted and talented students (.12 multiplier).
  • Weighted funding comes from a reallocation of funds previously earmarked for the Zoom and Victory programs. 
  • In order to calculate the yearly apportionment from the State Education Fund for each school district, multiply the adjusted base per pupil funding established for that school district by the sum of: 
    • The count of pupils enrolled in K-12
    • The count of pupils enrolled in a distance education program
    • The count of pupils who reside in the county and are enrolled in a public or charter school and are enrolled part-time in distance education program
    • The count of pupils receiving special education services
    • 6/10 of students who are under age 5 and are receiving special education services
    • The count of children in detention centers, alternative programs, and juvenile forestry camps
    • The count of pupils enrolled in classes for at least one semester 
    • The count of pupils enrolled in a challenge school 
  • The base per pupil funding amount must be equal to the base per pupil amount from the most recent previous biennium and increased by an amount not less than the combined rate of inflation and the growth of enrollment in the public schools in this state. 

Click here to read about this in The Nevada Independent.

Additional Bills that Impact K-12 Public Education:

Assembly Bills (AB)

AB19 English language arts, math, science, and social studies are designated as the core subjects. Social studies now includes history, geography, economics, civics, financial literacy, and multicultural education. This bill also maintains the standards adoption process but removes the requirement of codifying standards in regulations to ensure a streamlined adoption of updated standards. 

AB38 Revises provisions related to career and technical education (CTE). Allows pupils to apply work-based learning program hours to credits needed for graduation. 

AB57 Requires that pupil growth accounts for 0% of teacher and administrator evaluations for 21-22 school year and 15% for 22-23 school year. Temporarily suspends requirement to develop learning goals for pupils. 

AB67 Revises provisions related to suspension and expulsion of pupils from public schools, charter schools, and universities. 

AB109 At least 80% of teachers who teach at a charter school must hold a license or endorsement to teach and all core academic subject teachers must be licensed. 

AB194 Amends what information must be included in the annual report of accountability. Requires principals to prepare a plan to improve the achievement of pupils in school. Amends suspension and expulsion policies with a focus on restorative justice. The Nevada Department of Education now has to provide guidance to the Board of Trustees and adopt regulations related to discipline.  

AB195 “ELL Bill of Rights”: Requires Boards of Trustees to collect data on English language learners. English language learners and their parents and/or legal guardians are granted certain rights. The Board of Trustees must post information on their website regarding how the district uses money related to Title III of ESSA of 2015. The Board of Trustees must develop a policy for English instruction for English language learners. 

AB205 Health care professionals may issue orders for opioid antagonists to be at public or private schools. A school nurse or opioid antagonist who is authorized may administer auto-injectable epinephrine. If stored at school, auto-injectable epinephrine must be stored in a designated, secure location that is unlocked and easily accessible. There must always be two doses at each school site. 

AB224 Requires that the annual report of accountability for all middle schools, junior high schools, and high schools include evaluation of access to menstrual products. All middle schools, junior high schools, and high schools ensure that menstrual products are provided to students at no cost in bathrooms. The Board of Trustees of each middle school, junior high school, and high school must develop a plan to address the lack of access to menstrual products due to affordability. 

AB235 Requires the Board of Trustees and the governing bodies of certain charter and private schools to provide pupils and their parents and/or guardians with information regarding the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  

AB257 Requires the Board of Trustees and the governing body of charter schools to, to the extent that money is available, ensure that each school is equipped with functional ventilation and filtration systems that are tested, adjusted, and, if necessary, repaired, upgraded, or replaced. 

AB261 Requires that the Board of Trustees and the governing body of charter schools ensure that instruction is provided to pupils in K-12 on history and contributions to science, the arts and humanities of Native Americans and Native American tribes, persons of marginalized sexual orientation or gender identity, persons with disabilities, persons from various racial and ethnic backgrounds (African-American, Basque, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander), persons from various socioeconomic statuses, immigrants or refugees, persons from various religious backgrounds, and any other person that the Board of Trustees or governing board of a charter school deems appropriate. 

AB266 Amends the allowable ratio of pupils per licensed teacher. In grades kindergarten, first, and second, the ratio must not exceed 16 to 1. In third grade, the ratio must not exceed 18 to 1. Only certain personnel should be counted when determining ratios. The Board of Trustees must determine the number of vacancies based on how many teachers would be needed to meet the ratios from above, and these vacancies must be posted on the district’s website. Revises statewide performance evaluation system for teachers. 

AB319 Requires the College of Southern Nevada to establish a pilot program to offer enhanced opportunities for pupils to enroll in dual credit courses. This program must target certain student populations. 

AB355 Allocation of funds to state organizations: $750,000 to the International Gaming Institute of UNLV for the “Expanding the Leaderverse” initiative; $350,000 to Nevada Center for Civic Engagement to support We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Program; $2,000,000 to Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health for research, clinical studies, operations, and educational programs; $1,084,686 to Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health; $1,000,000 to Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation for children to attend after school programs. 

AB417 Requires all vehicles that transport students to be in good condition and requires timely response for repairs. 

AB443 Reorganizes interim committees. Repeals Legislative Commission on Education and creates a Joint Interim Standing Committee on Education. The Joint Interim Standing Committee on Education may evaluate, review, and comment on issues related to education within the state (including programs to enhance accountability in education, legislative measures regarding education, the progress made by the state, the school districts and the public schools in satisfying the goals and objectives of the statewide system of accountability for public schools, methods of financing public education, the condition of public education in the elementary and secondary schools, the program to reduce the ratio of pupils per class per licensed teacher, the development of any programs to automate the receipt, and storage and retrieval of the educational records of pupils), conduct investigations and hold hearings, request that the Legislative Counsel Bureau assist in the research, investigations, hearings, and reviews of the Committee, and make recommendations to the Legislature concerning the manner in which public education may be improved. 

SB2 The Board of Trustees and the governing body of a charter school shall prepare a plan to improve the literacy of pupils in elementary school. The Board of Trustees and the governing body of a charter school shall provide information regarding services for children with disabilities to parents or guardians of all enrolled pupils. School nurses shall carry out observations and examinations to determine whether pupils have scoliosis, visual or auditory problems, or other gross physical defects. 

SB36 Updates school emergency response plans to crises, emergencies, and suicides. Requires emergency operations plan development committee to include at least one representative of the county or district board of health. Requires the Nevada Department of Education to include information regarding an epidemic in their plan, due to the effect of COVID-19. 

SB66 The Office of Science, Innovation, and Technology will gather data on internet access for pupils statewide and make efforts to improve access to the Internet and telecommunications technology for pupils. The Board of Trustees and State Public Charter School Authority will report information to the Office of Science, Innovation, and Technology. 

SB102 Amends starting age for kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade. Ages 7-18 may attend a public school in the state of Nevada. If a child is five years or older on or before the first day of school, the child may start kindergarten. If a child is six years or older on or before the first day of school and has not completed kindergarten, the child may start kindergarten. If the child has finished kindergarten, then the child may start 1st grade. If the child is seven years old on or before the first day of school and has completed kindergarten and 1st grade, the child may start 2nd grade. If the child has completed kindergarten, the child may start 1st grade. 

SB126 All employees of a charter school shall be deemed public employees. The Board of Trustees can provide the governing board of the charter school with a copy of the employment record of the employee who is seeking employment with a charter school. Repeals provisions governing the reappointment of a post probationary administrator. 

SB151 The Board of Trustees of a school district in a county whose population is 100,000 or more shall develop a plan to improve the ratio of pupils to specialized instructional support personnel. Requires school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers to complete certain continuing education courses. Amends certain reporting standards for the Board of Trustees and the Nevada Department of Education. Requires the Commission on Professional Standards in Education and the Board of Examiners for Social Workers to adopt regulations. 

SB172 The State Board of Education must adopt a uniform grading scale for all public high schools, including dual credit courses, international baccalaureate (IB) courses, advanced placement (AP) courses, and honors courses. Every school district and charter school must establish a program for dual credit or partner with an already established program. On or before December 1st of each odd-numbered year, the Board of Trustees and the governing body of a charter school must submit a report on their dual credit program. 

SB215 The Board of Trustees shall schedule and provide a minimum of 180 days of free school. There can be an alternative schedule if the total minutes are equal to or greater than 180 days. The schedule can be reduced up to 15 days if minutes are equal to or greater than 180 days. If days are lost due to interscholastic activities, additional minutes may be added but not more than five days can be added in this way. The Board of Trustees, the governing body of a charter school, and a university school for profoundly gifted pupils may submit their applications to provide a distance education program. 

SB249 The Board of Trustees and the governing body of a charter school must ensure information regarding mental health resources, including the telephone number for a local and national suicide prevention hotline, appears on the back of all student identification cards (same information must appear on all newly issued and reprinted identification cards at universities, state colleges, and community colleges). A child may be excused from school with satisfactory written evidence if the child’s physical, mental, or behavioral health could prevent or render inadvisable the child’s attendance at school. 

SB287 Formally recognizes UNLV and the Desert Research Institute (DRI) as state land-grant institutions, alongside UNR. Requires the directors of certain departments within the Nevada System of Higher Education to conduct all business and manage all funds of their respective departments. 

SB352 Creates an alternative route to licensure. If an individual is employed as a paraprofessional and enrolled in a program to become a teacher, he/she/they may complete an accelerated program of student teaching in the same or similar area in which they are currently employed while remaining employed as a paraprofessional. Student teaching in another state or a foreign country will now be accepted and considered valid. If an individual is in a program for school psychology, he/she/they may complete their internship in school psychology while remaining employed. 

SB353 The Nevada Department of Education shall review exams and assessments as applicable for their educational benefit, cost of administering, and redundancy in information. The Nevada Department of Education will prescribe limits on the actual time taken from instruction for the exam or assessment and the number of exams and assessments administered each year. The Board of Trustees and governing board of a charter school must submit a waiver to exceed limitations. Funds will be provided to carry this out. 

SB354 Establishes a formal accountability and rating system aligned to student discipline and requires the adoption of a restorative justice plan. 

SB450 School districts may use surplus funds from existing tax rates to fund “pay as you go” capital improvement projects, including remodels and necessary facility upgrades. 

SB458 Funding bill for K-12 programs in the state. Outlines the education budget for the next biennium and outlines funding for each district and the allocation of dollars across each district and charter school. $500 million added.

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