Guinn: Budget impasse poses real threat to Nevada schools

LAS VEGAS -- A legislative budget impasse poses a real threat to Nevada's public schools and could result in the closure of some of them, Gov. Kenny Guinn said.

In a letter to Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, Guinn said no responsible parent, elected official or taxpayer wants schools to close.

"The negative impact on our schools of this budgetary impasse is not imaginary, but real," the Republican governor wrote.

"I will continue to do everything in my power to secure a quality education for our students, a desire I believe you share. The decision to fund the schools of this state rests in the hands of the Legislature, as does the passage of a tax plan that will address the needs of our growing state," Guinn added.

Guinn sent the letter to Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, in response to full-page advertisements that appeared in Nevada newspapers earlier in the week. Hettrick signed one of the ads, which were paid for by Las Vegas businessman Robert Bigelow.

In the ads, Bigelow wrote that "money to run our schools comes in every day and will continue no matter what we do here. Threatening to close schools is using our children as political pawns."

But Guinn said unless the Legislature approves the proposed $1.6 billion budget for schools, there is no way he can legally disperse the funds.

"Without new revenue, we will not be able to meet our obligations to our children," Guinn said.

While Hettrick and other Assembly Republicans have opposed plans for an $860 million tax increase, they have indicated support for the proposed school budget.

During a special legislative session that ended Thursday, lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on the tax plan. Until the plan is approved, the Legislature cannot approve the public school budget.

The state constitution requires a balanced budget, and the tax increase is needed to provide revenue for public schools.

Hettrick and Republicans want to cut other items in the budget to reduce the need for an $860 million tax increase.

Guinn has ordered legislators to return June 25 to Carson City to work on a tax compromise and to pass the school budget.

In a related matter, Clark County School District Superintendent Carlos Garcia said 411 specialty teachers will be reassigned to regular classroom positions. These teachers, who specialized in such areas as literacy and technology, will fill some of the district's 745 vacancies.

The district's hiring efforts have been hampered by the Legislature's inability to resolve tax and budget differences.

"It is unfortunate to find ourselves in this dilemma," Garcia wrote district principals. "We value the experience and expertise of all teachers affected and regret this action is forced upon us."

Officials said the schools most affected by the loss of specialists will be ones serving large populations of non-English speakers or second-language students.

In Washoe County, some students might start the multi-track school term July 7 with substitute teachers if lawmakers fail to agree on a tax plan, district officials warned.


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