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#NVLeg Week 12: Combating The COVID-19 Slide

The exterior of the Nevada State Legislative Building in Carson City.
Alexa Ard
The Nevada State Legislative Building in Carson City.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed almost every aspect of daily life. Nowhere might that be more apparent than in the classroom. Nearly half a million K-12 students in Nevada have endured months of learning remotely or through hybrid instruction showing up to school every other day. Experts predict that when students do return to school, they will have forgotten many of the things they've learned over the last year. That's why lawmakers are considering a number of bills meant to address those issues. To talk about that and more, KUNR's Morning Edition Host Noah Glick spoke with Political Reporter Paul Boger.

NOAH GLICK: Before we jump into education, I want to just discuss the deadline the other day. What's going on there?

PAUL BOGER: Lawmakers had that deadline to get all of the bills out of their house of origin. The Assembly lawmakers had to pass Assembly Bills and Senate lawmakers had to pass Senate bills. So we saw roughly 150 bills passed through those chambers on Tuesday. They're still considering hundreds of bills. The reason I wanted to bring it up though, is that lawmakers have a kind of a sly little thing that they do when they want to keep a bill alive, but they don't have a vehicle for it, or they don't have a way to get it past the deadline. What they do is, they consider it exempt. So if it has a fiscal note, if it has some sort of money impact, they'll send it to Ways and Means or a money committee where they'll keep it for a few weeks until they're ready to deal with it. We saw a lot of the bigger pieces of legislation that we've been keeping an eye on go to that Ways and Means [committee]. So the election bill, we know, is in there. That's one of the ones I'm keeping my eye on. There are a few others, of course, but that's one thing I really wanted to talk about, that exemption.

GLICK: Sure. I do want to chat about some of the education bills. So, what are you keeping your eye on in terms of education?

BOGER: So of course, I think there's the biggest education bill so far, which is SB173. That's the Back on Track Act. That's being sponsored by Senator Dondero-Loop, and Sparks Assemblyperson Natha Anderson. Essentially what that is, is they're trying to get school districts to come up with a plan to address optional summer school for kids if they need it. [For example], if teachers say, ‘Hey, we've noticed that Noah has really suffered in math the last few months and he's not failing, but we really just noticed that he's got to do a little bit better. We think he should come to summer school. It's optional.’ So they want districts to come up with those plans.

They're going to use the federal money that they got from the American Rescue Plan to pay for that. [One] of the issues though, is that a lot of districts have never paid for summer school. It's always been something that parents had to pay for if their child failed, and the state doesn't pay for it. So schools aren't compensated by the state for that program. So, there are issues like, do you provide transportation for the kids? If so, how far away do they need to live? How many stops are you going to have? Do you need to feed them? Those are some of the issues that lawmakers are trying to work out. That being said, a lot of them are on board. Everybody agrees, kids need a lot of help post-pandemic as we get back to normal. So, that's one of the things that we're looking at.

Another is AB57. [That bill] is going to wave teacher assessments when it comes to achievement scores later on. During the pandemic, a lot of teachers have complained that their students are not doing well because of the conditions of the pandemic. [Teachers] shouldn't necessarily be judged on what's going on with students during the pandemic and the first few years after the pandemic. Because [that's when] they're going to get kids back on track. So they're saying that those teacher assessments that the state uses to decide how schools are doing, aren't going to work right now. That's, of course, an incredibly controversial bill. A lot of Republicans feel teachers need those assessments to keep them honest. So it depends on who you ask.

Then there's AB 450. I want to bring that one up, because during the State of the State Address, Governor Sisolak talked about removing community colleges out from [the Nevada System of Higher Education] and creating a workforce development program. That plan has now turned into a study where we will look at those issues over the next couple of years and find ways to better address workforce development needs here in the state through that study.

So those are the big three education bills that I'm looking at right now. Of course, there's education funding, which we haven't even gotten close to talking about because we don't have that final money picture from the economic forum. That's coming in the next couple days.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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