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New bill seeks to create Nevada Educator Corps


A recently introduced bill proposes to create the Nevada Educator Corps to provide tutoring services in Nevada’s public schools. Senate Bill 272 was heard Wednesday in the Senate Committee on Education at the Nevada Legislature.

The Nevada Educator Corps would include retired and current teachers as well as college students studying education who’ve taken 30 hours or more of coursework and attained a special license through the Nevada Department of Education (DOE). Tutors in the corps would be paid using $5 million in federal School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) dollars received by the state.

SB 272 was presented to the committee by its sponsors, Senators Heidi Seevers Gansert and Ben Kieckhefer, who explained how recruitment, training and pay would be handled for corps members—as well as several amendments to the bill.

State Senators Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Seevers Gansert during the first day of the 81st session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

The DOE would be tapped to obtain a list of current and retired teachers, and school districts would work with universities and colleges in their areas to recruit students. Retired teachers and students in need of licensure would be able to receive it from the DOE free of charge.

Seevers Gansert pointed out that tutoring could be done both in person and virtually, making tutors available to students in districts across the state.

Tutors would be paid $20 per hour. An amendment to the bill changed its language to allow for tutors to work up to 26 hours per week rather than the initially proposed 700 hours per school year.

The regional training programs across the state that provide professional development training for teachers and administrators would be responsible to provide training for members of the corps and determine in which subject areas each was best suited to provide tutoring. The details of what the training would entail, Seevers Gansert said, have not been worked out as yet. Additionally, any prospective corps member would be required to pass a background check.

Asked by college student members of the corps would only be required to have completed 30 credit hours rather than 60, which is a requirement for college students to substitute teach in some school districts across the state, Seevers Gansert stressed the corp’s tutors would not be replacing teachers or providing lessons in classrooms. Their role would be strictly limited to one-on-one and small-group tutoring.

SB 272 is one of four measures that are together being billed by the legislators who’ve introduced them as a “Nevada Education Recovery Plan.” Senate Bill 273 would create grant funding opportunities through the DOE for literacy programs. Senate Bill 312 would expand pre-K programs across the state, and Senate Bill 316 would create a fifth-year pilot program for high school seniors who may not be prepared to graduate on time. SB 272 was the first to receive a hearing in the legislature.

Seevers Gansert noted that recent education data suggests nearly 115,000 Nevada public school students between kindergarten and the fifth grade read below their grade levels. In recent years, however, some of the state’s learning metrics had begun to catch up with those of other states. In 2019, Nevada fourth graders performed very near the national average in reading proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Seevers Gansert said she believes creation of the corps would help keep those numbers on track and address delays in learning resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students falling behind has been a concern for educators and lawmakers throughout the pandemic, and SB 273 and the other bills included in the “Nevada Education Recovery Plan” are only a few of the education-related bills that have been introduced this session.

Senate Bill 173, dubbed the “Back on Track Act” was introduced earlier this month by Senator Marilyn Dondero Loop and Assembly member Natha Anderson. It would have Nevada’s 17 school districts and the state Public Charter School Authority submit plans to the DOE to address learning loss caused by the pandemic. The plans could include in-person and virtual summer school options. Their implementation would be evaluated in October 2021.

Assembly Bill 57, introduced at the behest of the Washoe County School District, would temporarily waive the requirement for pupil growth learning measures to factor into teacher and administrator evaluations.

All of this comes as the state’s 11-member Commission on School Funding continues its work to hammer out the details for a complete overhaul of Nevada’s more than half-century-old K-12 education funding formula and replace it with a new, pupil-centered model.

The new model was supposed to be implemented in July of this year, but Gov. Steve Sisolak announced his State of the State address that it will now be phased in over several years to ease the strain on school districts already struggling in the face of the pandemic.

Jeri Chadwell
Jeri Chadwellhttp://thisisreno.com
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.