Teachers and students heading back to school will notice a buffet of new education programs thanks to a busy session of the Nevada Legislature this spring. From perks to help fight the state’s severe teacher shortage to a brand new scholarship for college students in need, here are things to look out for:
Clark County School District made progress staving off its teacher shortage by hiring nearly 1,700 hires, but as of Friday, there were still 782 vacancies that will be filled with long-term substitutes on the first day of school Monday. Washoe County School District, which started two weeks earlier, is looking to fill 48 jobs — mainly aides who work alongside primary teachers.
State lawmakers voted this spring to spend extra money to attract teachers to lower-performing schools, and Clark County School District officials have been promoting signing bonuses of up to $5,000 as a recruitment tool. About 1,300 teachers have taken advantage of it, according to district spokeswoman Michelle Booth.
TEACHER SUPPLY REIMBURSEMENTS
Help is on the way for teachers who buy classroom supplies out of pocket. Nevada lawmakers passed a bill this spring that allows teachers a reimbursement of up to $250 per year if they request money for qualified classroom expenses.
The actual amount available to each teacher will probably be closer to $100 apiece when the $2.5 million allocated for the program this year is divided among all eligible teachers — there were nearly 23,000 statewide last year.
Deputy State Superintendent Dena Durish said the state will count the number of eligible teachers on the payroll as of Monday, then divide the money proportionately between districts on Sept. 1. Booth said Clark County School District teachers should receive their reimbursements this semester.
BREAKFAST AFTER THE BELL
Clark County School District said it’s ready to start serving breakfast after the school day begins at 110 schools — a gain of 78 from last year. A bill passed this spring and backed by first lady Kathleen Sandoval called on all schools where at least 70 percent of students are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch to offer breakfast.
The bill also provided $1 million in each of the next two years for startup costs, such as buying refrigerators to hold cartons of milk. Washoe County School District, where 10 schools are now required to serve breakfast after the bell, is among three districts that have applied for a share of the grant.
Providing a meal after the school day begins instead of before is aimed at reducing the stigma for poorer children taking advantage of the program, and ensuring children don’t miss out if they’re running a bit late. The breakfast must include a serving of fruit or juice, a whole grain, and milk, per federal guidelines.
PRIVATE SCHOOL TUITION HELP
Low and middle-income students who want to attend private school could soon get help through the new Nevada Educational Choice Scholarship. The program, which is the lesser-known of two new ones that seek to make private school within reach of more students, allows businesses a payroll tax credit if they donate to an eligible scholarship organization.
Those organizations then disburse up to $7,775 per student.
Ray Lummus of the Nevada Department of Taxation said 12 businesses have sought to donate a combined $2.6 million to scholarship organizations as of Friday, and $500,000 of that has successfully been paid. The department is allowed to give up to $5 million in tax breaks this year.
It wasn’t clear whether individual scholarships have been awarded yet.
NEED-BASED COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP
Higher education officials are awarding a new need-based scholarship to 689 Nevada students this year.
The Nevada Legislature created the Silver State Opportunity Grant this spring and applied $2.5 million to the fund in each of the next two years. Awards vary in size based on a student’s financial need, but can be as large as $5,500 annually.
Students at community colleges and state colleges qualify. This year’s recipients include 96 students from Nevada State College, 37 from Great Basin College, 105 from Truckee Meadows Community College, 63 from Western Nevada College and 388 from the College of Southern Nevada.
Nevada has awarded the merit-based Millennium Scholarship for more than a decade but didn’t have a need-based scholarship until this year. Bill co-sponsor Sen. Ben Kieckhefer said the new program is a huge step toward ensuring college is affordable.