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Cortez Masto, education leaders tout relief money for schools

Updated April 7, 2021 - 5:46 pm

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert and Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara held a joint news conference Wednesday to discuss the most recent coronavirus stimulus package’s effect on mental health services as schools begin to fully reopen.

“I have heard from Nevadans — from children, from parents, our teachers — about the challenges of educating our kids in the middle of a pandemic,” Cortez Masto said while standing outside Doris Hancock Elementary, where she attended kindergarten through fifth grade.

“And I am focused on making sure that our kids can heal from this pandemic, which has taken a huge toll on them,” she added.

Nevada K-12 schools will receive some $1.1 billion from the American Rescue Plan, which the state’s federal delegation has been highlighting in a series of events this week. Clark County schools will get more than $800 million of that, according to Jara.

Some of this money, though it was unclear exactly how much, will go toward addressing students’ mental health needs by hiring more counselors, expanding peer counseling and other programs.

Cortez Masto cited a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found mental health-related emergency room visits for children increased by some 44 percent during the pandemic. Clark County also saw a surge in student suicides.

Jara did not have any specifics for how the money would be used, but he said several mental health-related programs, including a universal screening process and 24/7 alert system for students showing stress, have had some success in recent months.

The district will also use some of its funding for an accelerated summer school program, but Jara said the start date is still being worked out with various education workers’ unions.

“Due to the federal dollars that we are receiving, we’re going to be able to provide many resources for our students who are in crisis,” Jara said.

Cortez Masto noncommittal on H.R. 1

During the news conference, Cortez Masto was noncommittal on H.R. 1, House Democrats’ sweeping election reform bill that the Senate recently began committee hearings on.

When asked if she would support the bill, Cortez Masto said she supports making sure every American can vote and does not face discrimination, as well as sections of the legislation that are meant to increase transparency around elections and political advertisements. But she did not give a firm yes or no answer on the bill as a whole.

“I’m very proud of the work that (Nevada) did over the last election cycle and before — particularly during the middle of a pandemic to make sure that everybody had the ability to vote,” Cortez Masto said. “Our voting was secure. It was fair. And it really is a model for the rest of the country. And that model is what is in this bill.”

Cortez Masto announced in March that she has co-sponsored a Senate version of the House bill along with 48 other senators. The Senate bill is similar to the House legislation.

Contact Rory Appleton at rappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.

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