CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The new Nevada governor’s chief of staff said on Friday that the administration plans an “unprecedented investment” in K-12 education — but did not provide details on what that would entail.
In a 15-minute roundtable, Ben Kieckhefer, chief of staff for Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo, also vowed that the administration would pursue “school choice in all its forms” — a main campaign theme that Lombardo plans to elaborate on later this month.
Kieckhefer also floated the prospect of pay raises for state employees and said Lombardo, elected in November, will still pursue his core campaign promises despite working with a Democratic-controlled legislature.
He also announced an executive order repealing all remaining COVID-19 emergency executive orders, many of which have been gradually lifted over the past months after then-Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak ended his own emergency order. Kieckhefer described the order as “primarily clean-up” from having the orders on the books.
Another executive order tasks the Department of Administration to simplify and approve the state’s hiring and retainment process to improve the 24% vacancy rate for state employment. It also directs the return of state employment processes to pre-pandemic operations.
“Starting at the next fiscal year, we expect everyone to be working back at normal hours in a physical office,” Kieckhefer said.
Kieckhefer said the administration is evaluating a pay raise for state employees, the exact amount of which will be revealed during Lombardo’s Jan. 23 state of the state address.
Lombardo took office earlier this week, pledging unity with the Democrat-controlled legislature while vowing to push conservative causes central to his campaign, particularly school choice and repealing criminal justice reform legislation that he has called “soft on crime.”
Lombardo’s other goals include repealing Nevada’s system of mailing ballots to every registered voter and diversifying Nevada’s economy, which relies heavily tourism and gaming.
More details about the education investment would come during Lombardo’s state of the state address.
Kieckhefer also did not commit to doubling the state’s educational funding — an item Sisolak proposed in his budget that he put forth after he lost re-election to Lombardo.
“We’ve taken the previous administration’s recommendations under advisement, but we’ll be making our own decisions about what we think is best for the state,” said Kieckhefer, a former state senator and AP reporter.
Lombardo had vowed to be America’s “education governor” by pushing for school choice and floating the expansion of charter schools on the campaign trail.
“We believe in this sort of holistic school choice,” said Kieckhefer. “That includes choice within the private system, choice within the traditional public system, choice within public charters. And there’s a lot of space, with that philosophy in mind, to give more options to families.”
During his campaign, Lombardo told The Nevada Independent that he did not know if public schools were underfunded in Nevada and said there should be a “complete audit of the system” starting “day one” to determine whether funds are allocated appropriately for different school districts. It is unclear if an audit is planned. In a statement in response to question about an audit, spokesperson Elizabeth Ray said Lombardo will bring “increased accountability and transparency measures” that he will discuss at the state of the state address.
Asked if any initiatives will fall by the wayside since Democrats have a majority in the state Senate and a supermajority in the Assembly, Kieckhefer said that the administration will “push aggressively” and find ways to work with the Legislature.
“We’re not giving up on our fundamental campaign platform before we even started,” Kieckhefer said. “That would be a fool’s errand.”
Source: US News