Educators say new special education rules will cost them millions | NevadaAppeal.com

Educators say new special education rules will cost them millions

School officials from Washoe and Clark counties say newly imposed special education regulations will cost them millions of dollars they don’t have.

The regulations approved Jan. 29 by the State Board of Education require more special education teachers and smaller classes effective in July. School district officials say they agree with the new rules, but until the January vote the plan was to make them effective in July 2001.

Jeanne Botts of Washoe School District said implementing the new class size rules a year early puts a huge financial burden on budgets that have already been set.

She said school districts don’t have the money to meet the requirements without cutting elsewhere.

In Washoe, she said, that would cost upward of $1 million a year in salaries and benefits for the added teachers. That doesn’t cover the cost of extra space for the additional classrooms.

Walt Rulffes of Clark County School District said the cost there will be up to $3.7 million in personnel costs, plus another $1.2 million in classroom construction and other infrastructure.

Botts said the districts complained they had no warning and no way to get the added funds, but the state board voted in the new rules anyway.

She added that’s not the first time the state board has ignored district objections that they were being unfairly hit with costly mandates.

“The effective date does not give us the opportunity to adjust the budgets,” she told the Interim Finance Committee.

Botts and Rulffes said school officials need to bring funding issues that large to the next Legislature so they can be properly budgeted without hurting other programs in the school system.

But Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said he doubts IFC has the authority to change the decisions of the state Board of Education – which is composed of elected members.

Assembly Speaker Joe Dini, D-Yerington, pointed to a possible avenue to change the decision, because the Legislature has the right to review and approve or reject agency regulations.

Legislative lawyer Scott Wasserman said he would look into it, indicating Dini’s assessment is correct.