Nevada governor orders collection of all K-12 school audits
Gate Stern/Associated Press
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo has ordered all Nevada public schools to collect and report third-party audits to his office, a move in line with calls during his campaign to evaluate K-12 resources statewide.
Lombardo's office will consolidate audits already required into one report, with recommendations on how to improve public K-12 education in Nevada, a state that routinely sits toward the bottom of national rankings in several metrics.
Several school districts welcomed the order but noted the requirements are nothing new.
“We do not have a problem compiling these reports, however, all of these reports are already submitted to a state agency or audited by a state agency,” Ray Ritchie, chief operating officer of the Nye County School District, said in an email. “This seems to be a duplication of efforts, but we will comply.”
A spokesperson for Lombardo did not respond to an email on Tuesday asking for elaboration on the order, including what material the office is requesting that is not already reported to the state.
Lombardo's order follows his pledge to couple his $2 billion proposal for K-12 education from the $11.4 billion budget with increased accountability. In his State of the State address last month, he vowed to take action if the funding doesn't lead to improvements in leadership, though he didn't say how that would be determined.
The 14 types of audits include civil rights and financial compliance, and performance for English language students and students with disabilities, and workers’ compensation. Lombardo wants the audits submitted to the governor's auditing division by March 1, which will summarize the findings and submit recommendations by Dec. 29 on how to address deficiencies across school systems.
School officials in rural Elko County and Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, said external auditors already review finances for the districts and will send anything else the governor’s office is requesting. The Washoe County School District, which includes Reno, also shares its annual financial report with the state in line with existing law, said spokesperson Victoria Campbell.
Nevada's biennial legislative session started this week. Lawmakers are looking to craft a two-year plan to improve educational outcomes. Under a new funding formula approved during former Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s term, much of the funding will be tailored to local school districts.
Within the proposed education funding, Lombardo will attempt a balancing act of pushing for increased school choice with a Democratic-controlled Legislature. Traditionally opposed by teachers unions and Democrats, school choice generally refers to taxpayer-funded programs to help parents pay for other educational options, including private or charter schools, home-schooling or hybrid models, though it can take many forms.
Gabe Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow him on Twitter: @gabestern326.