Nevada lawmakers complain about education cuts

Democratic legislators say Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons is cutting $40 million in education programs, including funding for the state officer who oversees anti-drug programs.

"The governor puts no money in the budget for it (the state officer), and methamphetamine is supposed to be a big problem," Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said. "They say one thing and do another."

During a joint Assembly-Senate budget subcommittee hearing Thursday, legislators learned that education items not funded in Gibbons' proposed $6.8 billion, two-year budget included nine existing full-day kindergarten programs now funded through a special grant program.

Also left out were a $10 million pilot project for teacher incentive pay, $1 million for a program to relocate disruptive students, a 5 percent bonus for speech pathologists and money for nine additional schools that now qualify for full-day kindergarten.

The state currently provides funds for full-day kindergarten in 114 schools. "At-risk" schools, or those in which more than 55 percent of students get free or reduced-price lunches, qualify for full-day kindergarten funds.

Also not included is $25 million for grants for innovative school programs. The Legislature set up a fund two years ago that allows schools to seek grants for innovative programs. Gibbons proposes continuing the grant program but wants to use $25 million of the funds elsewhere. That would leave $55 million for innovative program grants.

Titus was joined by Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywomen Debbie Smith and Sheila Leslie, both Washoe County Democrats, in criticizing the governor's public schools budget proposals.

Gibbons didn't send any of his office staff to the hearing to justify the reductions, and no Republicans on the subcommittee defended his proposals.

After the meeting Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said Gibbons should have a chance to explain his rationale before legislators take apart his budget.

Steve Robinson, Gibbons' deputy chief of staff, said the administration will look at the objections.


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