Tahoe spokesman asks lawmakers for power to create district
A spokesman for the group pushing creation of a separate school district at Lake Tahoe asked the Legislature on Monday to give residents in the basin the power to break away.
Michael Jabara, spokesman for the Tahoe Citizens Committee, said if SB144 isn’t changed, it would take a majority of all voters in Carson City, Washoe and Douglas counties to allow the new school district.
“The chance of that happening with a vote of the three counties is less than 1 percent,” Jabara said.
If just residents of the basin vote, he predicted the new school district would win more than two-thirds of the total vote.
“There is overwhelming support for creation of a Lake Tahoe School District,” he told the Senate Human Resources and Facilities Committee.
But he said the residents at Incline Village and Stateline also recognize the concern that their district would be so wealthy because of high property values in the basin that it could attract legal challenges.
Even if the state didn’t contribute money on a per-pupil basis, he said the new district would probably have more money per student than any other district in Nevada except possibly Eureka.
So he called on lawmakers to change the funding formula so that some of that extra money could be “recaptured” by the state and distributed to other county school districts.
“We’re willing to work to come up with a financing plan that doesn’t enrich us,” he said, adding that the idea is to create a district that better serves the special needs of Lake Tahoe students.
He was joined in his argument by former Washoe School Board member Leslie Porter, who said the basin has much different needs than the valleys and that, because of the weather, it even has different school schedules.
Assemblyman Pete Ernaut, R-Reno, who represents Incline Village, has said in the past he thinks a separate school district at the lake makes sense. He told the committee he believes the Legislature itself should make the decision because requiring a countywide vote makes breaking away impossible, while asking just those at the lake practically guarantees the idea’s victory.
“Don’t make it so easy that five years from now we have 150 districts in the state, and don’t make it impossible,” he said.
The original idea behind the bill was to allow the Clark County School District to break into smaller districts, which supporters say would make each small district more responsive and actually reduce administrative costs.
Clark schools Superintendent Brian Cram told the committee the problem is meeting all the requirements to ensure the new districts don’t violate requirements that the racial balance and respective wealth of the separate districts be representative and relatively equal.
Cram said afterward that turned out to be almost impossible in Clark County.
“We could balance racially but could not balance economically at the same time,” he said.
He said Nevada is already facing severe equity problems because some districts are far wealthier than others.
The example cited for the committee was Eureka County, which has few students but wealthy gold mines and generates $19,000 a year per student for schools.
“I fear anything that even smacks of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer,” Cram said.
Clark schools Financial Director Mike Alastuey also said after the meeting that the claim smaller districts would save on administrative costs is not supported by the numbers. He said the massive Clark County School District enjoys an economy of scale that actually saves money over even Washoe County.
Jabara asked the committee to consider allowing Incline and Stateline residents to vote to create their own district, saying the only problem is the financial imbalance. But he said they are willing to work with the state to make sure the rest of Washoe County and the valley portion of Douglas County aren’t treated unfairly by the split.
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