Published Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009 | 3:34 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009 | 6:11 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- Nevada and other states will be allowed to apply for a waiver from the federal government if they cannot meet a matching fund requirement to access education money in President Barack Obama’s $789 billion economic recovery package, House aides said today.
Democratic Rep. Dina Titus and other members of the Nevada delegation in Washington had sought the waiver provision because Carson City says it cannot meet the federal requirement that Nevada fund its schools at 2006 levels.
The state risks leaving several hundred million dollars in federal funds on the table.
The waiver provision had been included in the Senate version of the bill, but Titus and Rep. Shelley Berkely pressed for it to be included in the final product.
Gov. Jim Gibbons and state legislative leaders wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last week urging him to drop the requirement that states maintain funding levels.
However, even though the state can apply for the waiver from the U.S. Secretary of Education, there is no guarantee it will win one.
Waivers have been rare in the past, going to schools in the path of Hurricane Katrina and those in other areas hard hit by disasters.
The state will have to show it faces serious financial difficulties in funding education at 2006 spending levels to qualify.
The governor proposes to dramatically cut funding to schools and higher education to meet the state budget shortfall.
Titus is pleased with the final product.
"Our state has been hit particularly hard during this economic downturn," she said in a statement. "We face a severe budget deficit that could lead to deep cuts in vital services, especially education, making the funds in the economic recovery package critical to the future of our state."
"While states need to be held accountable for maintaining appropriate levels of funding for education programs, there must be some flexibility for states like Nevada that face unprecedented fiscal challenges," she said. "Nevada will now have an opportunity to make its case to the Secretary of Education."