Legislative committee approves more than $5 million for schools

Legislative committee approves more than $5 million for schools
The Nevada Legislature on second day of the 31st Special Session in Carson City, Nev., on Thursday, July 9, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

CARSON CITY–Nevada Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee last week approved more than $5 million for the Department of Education (DOE) for programs related to digital learning, workforce development and safe schools reopening.

A little more than $1.4 million was approved to fix a budgeting error in distribution of COVID-19 relief funds to school districts within the state. DOE officials said the error occurred, in part, because of the transition from the Nevada Plan funding formula to pupil-centered funding, which was implemented for the 2021-2022 school year.

The CARES Act funds were distributed to school districts throughout the state to expand access and program materials for digital learning and improve school ventilation systems, all in response to the pandemic.

The committee also approved $450,000 to develop a Pathways to Careers platform, introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting greater emphasis from state leadership on workforce development and economic recovery. The approved amount includes $150,000 from American Rescue Plan Act and $300,000 from ESSER funds.

The platform is a labor market dashboard tool providing data on wages, occupations and education requirements that educators can use to help students identify career pathways in high-value industries. Officials also expect the tool will help the state to fill critical needs areas in the labor force by getting information to students and their families—which hasn’t been done in the past.

DOE Superintendent Jhone Ebert, in response to concerns that the platform might be duplicating efforts from other state entities, said such a tool wasn’t yet available for students in K-12. She said her department will be working with economic development and higher education officials more closely in the future to support workforce development and career readiness initiatives.

An additional $250,000 was approved for Jobs for America’s Graduates, a program providing student support for career readiness and workplace skills.

Another $3 million was approved for continuation of the myON Digital Library project, at $1.5 million per year for the current and next fiscal years. The myON library is available to all K-12 students providing free access to digital books to improve students’ reading skills.

The governor’s office notes that since the launch of the myON program in May 2020—which coincided with a shift to digital learning during the pandemic—Nevada students have spent more than 76 million minutes reading.