Bill to fund all-day kindergarten introduced | NevadaAppeal.com

Bill to fund all-day kindergarten introduced

Every Democrat in the Senate and Assembly signed on to legislation introduced Friday that would implement all-day kindergarten statewide beginning with the 2008 school year.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said AB157 would cost about $45 million, which, she said, is available in the state treasury without breaking the statutory spending cap.

She said not starting the program until the second year of the budget cycle will give the school districts time to get facilities ready to hold the classes and hire teachers. But, she said, lawmakers would be willing to work with the districts should problems develop in making the deadline.

All-day kindergarten has developed into this session’s first major partisan hurdle as Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, have questioned whether the state can afford the ongoing cost of statewide mandatory kindergarten classes. While the cost will only increase the proposed education budget by $45 million in 2008, it would require about $100 million the following year and more every year thereafter.

Raggio and Senate Finance Vice Chairman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, have expressed concern that it would force lawmakers to violate the spending cap unless severe cuts were made in other state programs.

And school district officials, while they believe all-day kindergarten will improve student learning, have said they aren’t sure they can afford to build the additional classrooms or find enough teachers to staff them. Both Washoe and Clark county school officials say they are struggling to hire enough teachers to man the classrooms they already have.

Buckley said there have been suggestions the state use some of the treasury surplus, which can’t be spent on programs because it would violate the spending cap, as one-shot money to help districts build the necessary classrooms.

The bill was referred to both the Assembly Education and Ways and Means committees for review.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.