(Robert Davis) – Nevada state lawmakers unveiled legislation on Tuesday that will allow all public schools in the state to offer distance learning options next school year.
Senate Bill 215 removes restrictions for schools to petition their district board of trustees to allow for alternative education schedules. State law requires schools to offer free education for 180 days out of the year, or an equal amount of minutes of instruction.
The bill also allows the board of trustees to reduce the school year by no more than 15 days as long as a school can demonstrate that their pupils received the same number of minutes of instruction.
Students who can demonstrate they’ve made sufficient progress toward completing a course through distance learning will be allowed to receive credit for the course earlier, according to the bill’s text.
The legislation was largely written by the Blue Ribbon Commission, a 37-member coalition of local educators, policymakers, and nonprofit organizations convened by Nevada State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert to recommend policy changes to meet the state’s education needs.
SB 215 was introduced by Ebert and Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, who chairs the Senate Education Committee.
“The fast and complete shift to distance learning in all of Nevada’s schools last year created opportunities for innovation as well as exposed challenges in our ability to meet the needs of every student in a non-traditional setting,” Ebert said in a statement.
Nevada shuttered its schools on March 16, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, state lawmakers cut over $160 million in education spending to balance the state budget. The result was a net decrease in K-12 employment by 19%, according to the Pew Trusts.
To address the issue, lawmakers also introduced Senate Bill 173, known as the “Back on Track” Act, which would expand access to summer learning programs. It would also use nearly $1.1 billion from the American Rescue Plan to hire more teachers across the state.
Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor