Gibbons promises better education without breaking the spending cap | NevadaAppeal.com

Gibbons promises better education without breaking the spending cap

Gov. Jim Gibbons told nearly 200 Republicans at the Lincoln Day dinner on Friday he will do everything possible to improve public education in the state without violating the state’s statutory spending cap.

“Every student in the state of Nevada deserves a first class education; to be educated to his or her fullest potential,” he said.

He said it is unacceptable that Nevada is “at the bottom of every good list and at the top of every bad list.”

He touted his “empowerment” program giving individual schools, their administrators, teachers and parents more control over education as the new approach that will help the state change those statistics.

Describing the empowerment program as “not new but a new approach,” Gibbons said. “We cannot accept what we’ve been doing for the past many decades.

“We cannot continue subjecting our students to a one-size-fits-all plan.”

Gibbons told the audience at the Carson Nugget he doesn’t believe all-day kindergarten is the answer at this time.

“I’m not opposed to all-day kindergarten,” he said. But Gibbons said the pilot all-day kindergarten program at Nevada’s at-risk schools has only been operating this school year.

“If it works, if the data is there, I’ll work with the Legislature to find a way to continue it. But to say it is a success or failure based on the results of just six months is irresponsible.”

He said he wants to wait until the results are more conclusive.

But he said it won’t be necessary to exceed the cap limiting general fund growth to inflation plus population growth.

“As I look at that budget, think about that cap, I knew there was a way Nevada could live within its means,” he said.

He said the proposed $7 billion general fund budget does that, coming in $158 million below the cap for the next two years.

Gibbons said, however, the budget increased by $2.6 million in the past few days to pay for a “much needed child welfare training program.” He said the spending is vital to protect at-risk children.

“One abused, endangered child, ladies and gentlemen, is one child too many,” he said.

Gibbons also repeated his promise made during the State of the State address to increase the Homestead exemption protecting homeowners from losing their residence to legal action. He said not only should the maximum be raised from $350,000 to $550,000 but the state should allow owners of more expensive homes to purchase protection above that.

And he said they should be allowed to use the Homestead Act to protect a second home as well.

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