Nevada governor to donate salary to public education

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 22:   Clark County Commission Chairman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak speaks during a get-out-the-vote rally featuring former U.S. President Barack Obama at the Cox Pavilion as Obama campaigns for Nevada Democratic candidates on October 22, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(CNN)Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak donated his first check Wednesday to the state's public schools, making good on his campaign promise to donate his salary until public education improves, his office announced.

The Democrat's total salary is $163,474, his communications director Helen Kalla told CNN.
In a letter to the Nevada State Board of Education, Sisolak promised to give his salary each quarter to the Nevada Department of Education's Education Gift Fund.
"I asked the people of Nevada for the chance to lead this state for many reasons, chief among them being the opportunity to improve educational outcomes for every child in every classroom in the state," Sisolak wrote. "To show my commitment to this goal, the First Lady and I are donating my net state salary back to public education. It is my sincere hope that with these donations, I can begin to fulfill my promise to our educators, families, and children and make a positive impact on our public schools."
    Sisolak will do this for the duration of his four-year term, his office said in a statement. He directed the department to split the funds so that all 416 of the state's Title 1 schools -- schools with high percentages of low-income students -- receive $1,000, as well as an even share of any remaining funds, according to his office.
    The governor makes the donation being already independently wealthy, as he won $15 million in a 2007 judgment against Clark County over airport property rights, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
    Sisolak, who beat family feud-plagued Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt to win the governorship last year, made the pledge to donate his gubernatorial income in February 2018.
    "As governor of Nevada, I will not take a salary until our schools are back on track. Instead, until we get this problem solved, I will donate my salary to nonprofits that help support educators and students in and out of the classroom," Sisolak said at a press event at the time.
    The Las Vegas chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America wrote on Twitter, "Love the sentiment but unless he's getting paid hundreds of millions of dollars this is just performative," but the Nevada State Education Association applauded the governor's move.
    NSEA president Ruben Murillo said on Wednesday that the group "appreciated" the governor's decision, but also cited the need for greater education resources.
    "We appreciate the governor's gesture in terms of diverting his salary to public education until a solution comes about for fully funding public education in Nevada," he said. "We realize it's a difficult road given the tax structure in Nevada, the unprecedented growth that we're experiencing in the Reno and Las Vegas areas which fuels the need for more schools, teachers and resources to make sure students in Nevada have the best quality public education possible."
    "The governor recognized during his campaign that this was going to be a heavy load to bear," he added.
    The NSEA backed Sisolak in September for the state's general election.
    The Clark County Education Association, a Nevada teachers union, also supported the governor's decision. CCEA communications specialist Keenan Korth told CNN the association "applauds Governor Sisolak for keeping his promise to educators and donating his salary to Title I schools," saying Sisolak's "commitment to education is why CCEA endorsed him in his primary and why we worked so hard to get him elected."
    "This unprecedented gesture serves to highlight the need for more funding in our schools now," Korth added.
    Sisolak is not the first politician in recent memory willing and able to forgo a salary.
    Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, a former health care CEO, donated his first quarter salary to Hurricane Maria recovery efforts for Puerto Ricans in his state earlier this month, and Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a former businessman, donates his salary to charity every year.
      In March, President Donald Trump donated $100,000 -- one quarter of his annual $400,000 salary -- to the Department of Homeland Security.
      CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that the Nevada State Education Association endorsed Steve Sisolak for the state's general election.