Educators seek more funding

As lawmakers voted Monday on several education measures, Nevada teachers rallied outside, urging the legislators to reject cuts proposed for the state's K-12 teachers by Gov. Jim Gibbons.

More than 150 teachers, students and others, carrying signs reading "Nevada's children deserve better" and "Teachers are worth every penny," cheered as Lynn Warne, head of the Nevada State Education Association, said more school funds are needed because "we are already cut to the core."

Warne said the governor wants educators to absorb nearly $700 million in cuts, including $273 million in pay reductions, nearly $100 million in reduced health insurance subsidies and $100 million in eliminated "remediation and innovation" grants in the next two fiscal years.

Inside, the state Assembly voted for AB533, making a supplemental appropriation of $323 million to the state Distributive School Account because of unanticipated revenue shortfalls in the current fiscal year.

Also passed by the Assembly was AB14, which would require the state Department of Education to adopt a model to measure student achievement from year to year; and AB429, which adds instructional software to supplies on which school districts should spend minimum amounts.

The Assembly also passed AB393, requiring charter schools to provide services to 'at-risk' students; and AB327, requiring state university-college regents to report on participation of women, ethnic and racial minorities and other members of protected classes in higher education.

AB188, also passed by the Assembly, would authorize regents to waive some fees and tuition for children or widows of soldiers killed or identified as missing in action while serving in the military.

Also Monday, the Senate voted for a measure requiring financial literacy classes that students in public high schools would have to complete in order to graduate.

SB317, now moving to the Assembly for final legislative action, was proposed by Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, who said such courses are needed to prepare students "for their adult lives, and in these times that includes basic principles of finance."

The measure would cost the public school system about $1.3 million over the coming two fiscal years, according to the state Department of Education.

Also Monday, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said legislative leaders spoke last week with federal Department of Education representatives about stimulus funds, and the process to seek a waiver from "maintenance of effort" requirements for those funds.

Buckley said legislators were told that if the state does apply for the waiver, it should have a decision within two weeks of the application date " a speedy turnaround which came as a surprise.

The state hasn't applied for the waiver yet, and the Legislature is waiting for a staff analysis on pros and cons of such a request, Buckley said, adding, "We need to understand how it works before we submit the application. What's in our state's best interests? How would it work?"


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