LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A move to allow Nevada cities to form their own school districts remains on track, submitting more than 220,000 signatures for verification to counties across the state today.

The Community Schools Initiative could eventually mean the break-up of the Clark County School District (CCSD), the nation’s fifth-largest with more than 300,000 students.

But several hurdles remain. At least 140,777 signatures — split equally among Nevada’s four congressional districts — must be valid for the initiative to advance. Counties need to verify the signatures and the Secretary of State’s Office must certify the initiative before it reaches the next step: the Nevada Legislature, which meets in 2023.

The initiative would become law if lawmakers approve it. If no action is taken or if the initiative is rejected, the ballot question will go to voters.

“Our coalition brought forth the Community Schools Initiative to get decision-making and funding closer to Nevada’s students,” said Dan Stewart, Community Schools Initiative chairman. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to this effort from every corner of our state. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this process from volunteers, donors, signature gatherers, community leaders and more. We urge the Nevada Legislature to pass this initiative next session.”

CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara took a shot at the initiative Wednesday afternoon, describing it as an “adult-centered distraction.”

CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara.

“While we recognize the need for improved educational outcomes across Nevada, these adult-centered distractions continue to harm our children. Should communities choose to secede from the Clark County School District, they will increase taxpayer costs by expanding government bureaucracies. Dismantling the economies of scale achieved by CCSD will raise the costs of educating all children and further exacerbate the inequities impacting our neediest children and violate their rights.”

Jara’s comments point to the need for administrators, buildings and support staff for each new district, which could prove costly.

“If anything is to change, Nevada must provide more funding and academic rigor to improve educational outcomes,” he said.

“Pointing fingers at CCSD and calling for its breakup is an easy populist talking point,” Jara continued. “Educating our students adequately requires an honest, reasoned, equitable, accountable, and sustainable strategy supported with optimal funding for the new pupil-centered funding formula to produce outcomes other than Nevada’s current 49th in the nation funding levels. This initiative achieves none of these.”

CCSD has been criticized for policies and administration decisions that don’t reflect community opinions on how schools should be run. Those criticisms have been loudest in Henderson, where Stewart considered a run at the mayor’s job before withdrawing from the race in 2021.

The organization behind the initiative says it is “designed to revamp Nevada’s outdated and underperforming K-12 education system.”

Security and curriculum have been the center of recent disputes, but a dysfunctional school board and the pandemic have fueled more public frustration with CCSD.

The initiative would allow municipal governments to “opt-out” of county school districts while retaining funding that was previously allocated.

The Clark County Education Association released a statement regarding the community schools initiative.

CCEA will await a determination from the Secretary of State on whether there are enough valid signatures to qualify the initiative petition to break up the Clark County School District. However, CCEA believes that breaking up the CCSD will not resolve the systemic problems which result from having the lowest funding levels in the nation, nor the high vacancy rate of educators that plagues our district and the country. Furthermore, CCEA believes that this effort will only exacerbate the gross inequity that exists between urban core schools and the predominantly white suburban ring of the school district. For those reasons, CCEA strongly opposes efforts to break up the school district and that Legislative efforts in 2023 should focus on the recommendations from the Commission on School Funding which is proposing that the State invest more funding over the next several years to bring our funding levels from last in the nation to the national average

Spokesman for CCEA