State Journal

Downsizing in Nevada?

Governor hopefuls differ on dividing the Clark County schools.

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The size of the Clark County, Nev., school system—which has a seemingly ever-expanding enrollment now at 292,000 students—has become an issue in the 2006 race for governor.

U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., who is seen as the front-runner in for the GOP nomination, says he supports breaking up the district, which includes Las Vegas. He has called the school system a “huge, huge bureaucracy.”

“I support the idea that perhaps it’s time to break that up into smaller, more manageable school districts,” Mr. Gibbons said on the Jan. 3 edition of “Nevada Newsmakers,” a Reno television show. He added that splitting up the district would create “an opportunity to improve accountability and improve the schools that are already there.”

Two other candidates have said they might also favor such a breakup. They are Republican state Sen. Bob Beers and Democrat Jim Gibson, the mayor of Henderson, Nev.

But state Sen. Dina Titus, a Democrat, and Lt. Gov. Lorraine T. Hunt, a Republican, say creating smaller districts wouldn’t solve any problems.

Jennifer Knight, a spokeswoman for Ms. Titus’ campaign, said the candidate instead favors decentralizing the district’s administration.

Breaking up the nation’s fifth-largest school district—which is growing by about 10,000 students a year—is not a new idea.

In the mid-1990s, state lawmakers pitched various proposals for “deconsolidating” the district, which, as with all districts in the state, shares the same boundaries as the county in which it is located.

Others who favor the idea, including Republican state Sen. Sandra J. Tiffany—whose legislative district includes part of Clark County—have said for years that the school system has become impersonal and unresponsive to parents.

But several issues have stood in the way, including finding equitable ways to divide the district’s bond debt, finance new districts, and achieve racial balance between the disadvantaged and more affluent areas of Clark County.

While the county school board has not taken a stand on the issue, it did accept public comment on it during a November meeting. Citizens expressed a wide range of opinions both for and against.

Vol. 25, Issue 20, Page 16

Published in Print: January 25, 2006, as Downsizing in Nevada?
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