Council-Lawsuit-09-14-17: Logandale resident Lindsay Dalley encouraged the Mesquite City Council to approve a resolution requiring the city attorney to sue the Clark County School District on behalf of Mesquite schools. The resolution alleges the school district cut funding in violation of state law. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

The Mesquite City Council unanimously approved a resolution at its Tuesday, Sept. 12, meeting requiring the city attorney to sue the Clark County School District for allegedly violating state law when the district intentionally reduced funding for the current school year, specifically at Virgin Valley Elementary School.

“Our schools are not getting the proper funding under AB 469,” Councilman Dave Ballweg said. “We need to make sure the [CCSD Board of Trustees] understand that we’re giving our attorney authority to act immediately. We can’t continue to drag this out.”

Ballweg sponsored the resolution.

Nevada State Assembly Bill (AB) 469 was the enabling legislation passed in 2015 that required a re-organization of CCSD. As part of that, rural schools were required to receive a mandatory minimum level of funding equal to the greater of the amount of all funding received in 2016-2017 or any proportional increase based on student population. Local school officials allege their funding was reduced this year when a teaching position at the Virgin Valley Elementary School was cut.

The city council resolution says in part, “no representative from the school district has been willing or able to provide any explanation as to why such a discrepancy has occurred in funding, except that such a reduction has been based on projections that have now been proven inaccurate, misleading and irresponsibly low.”

Councilman Rich Green asked city attorney Bob Sweetin if the State Superintendent of Public Instruction had received a reply to a letter send from that office to CCSD officials asking for an explanation of the funding shortfall.

“No,” Sweetin said. “I have drafted the lawsuit and it’s ready.” He added the lawsuit targets CCSD Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky and Jeff Hybarger, Clark County Schools Association Superintendent for the Virgin Valley Schools.  “Hybarger has presented twice before the council and he has never had any answers of any substance. When he did reduce the budgets, he failed to post online his reasoning for reducing them. That is a statutory requirement. Now the state superintendent is asking for simple reasoning about why they think it can be lower.”

Hybarger last appeared before the council in August. Under intense questioning he did not provide any explanation about the teaching position that was cut other than to say it was a matter of student enrollment numbers.

Ballweg and Sweetin both said that Superintendent Skorkowsky had promised them personally to restore the funding. However, Sweetin reiterated that the Board of Trustees control the funding and hold the final decision-making authority.

Sweetin said he has several interns in his office calling rural schools to see if there are others in the same situation as Mesquite schools and if they may want to join the lawsuit. “This could be much bigger than just Virgin Valley Elementary School and J.L. Bowler Elementary School,” Sweetin said. “We know of seven parents in Moapa that will join the lawsuit and others have talked about it.”

Lindsay Dalley, a member of the Moapa Valley Community Education Advisory Board, told the council “it’s important to know how the [school] district has played the game in the past. They arbitrarily adjust the numbers. I have no idea how. There is no particular reason or method to it.”

Dalley said Moapa Valley school officials have been talking to CCSD officials since February and “there has been no resolution. It’s not like all of a sudden it showed up. They [CCSD] have known about this. It is not a surprise. Unless the district is held accountable to the law and clarity is given from the trustees on down, they can change the game anytime they please.”