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Nevada Bill Could Break Up Clark County, Nev., District Into Smaller Ones

The Clark County, Nev., school district, the nation's fifth largest, could be split into smaller districts if a Republican-backed bill wending its way through the legislature is passed and ultimately signed by the governor.

The district, which has an enrollment of about 316,000 students, disagrees with the proposal put forward by David Gardner, a freshman Las Vegas Republican Assemblyman, the Associated Press reports. And the district's superintendent, Pat Skorkowsky, spoke against the measure at a hearing on Monday. 

Proponents said the bill—AB 394—was about ensuring accountability. Additionally, they argue, layers of bureaucracy in large districts such as Clark County sometimes made parents feel left out, and smaller districts tended to be more successful.

The bill would allow the governing bodies in municipalities within large countywide school systems like Clark County to break away and create smaller local districts or precincts. It would also allow smaller contiguous school districts to consolidate. 

"I like government closer to people," Gardner said, according to the AP.  "When you have an organization this large, it's hard for parents to have a say."

This is not the first time that Nevada lawmakers have taken aim at the sprawling Clark County School District. Several attempts have been to downsize the district dating to the 1970s, according to the AP. A 2008 deconsolidation bill also failed. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the affluent City of Henderson has also been attempting to leave the Clark County school system for nearly a decade and a half.

(In addition to Las Vegas and Henderson, the Clark County school system includes Boulder City and Mesquite and smaller unincorporated areas such as Bunkerville and Searchlight.) 

In an education-focused State of the State address earlier this year, Gov. Brian Sandoval said he supported a review of the current school district configurations. 

 From the governor's prepared remarks:

"We must also recognize that Nevada's school districts may be too large or too small. Today, they range in size from 74 students in Esmeralda County to over 318,000 students in Clark County. 

I will introduce legislation that allows local governments to create smaller school districts in our urban counties, and consolidate school districts in our rural counties. "

Gardner's bill gives the municipalities the ability to create plans for individual school districts, which would then have to be approved by the state board of education. 

Gardner's bill does not address the issue of debt or existing contracts, according to the AP.

In a story last week, the Las Vegas Sun pointed out a number of concerns that would have to be ironed out if the Clark County school system was broken up into smaller pieces, including the division of assets and attendance zones.

Seven of the district's eight high-performing career and technical academies are on county land, meaning that if the towns created their own school districts, the academies could conceivably remain under the county's control, according to the paper. And the majority of the district's highly sought-after magnet schools are located in the City of Las Vegas. Additionally, while some schools are located in one municipality, they draw students from their neighbors, according to the paper.

The paper also reported that Henderson supports the deconsolidation idea. The bill's co-sponsor is Stephen Silberkraus, an assemblyman from Henderson, and the city council voted to support the measure this month. 

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