Assembly throws monkey wrench into school funding bill
Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, says the Assembly has violated an agreement to process remaining budget bills without modification by amending the legislation funding public schools for the next two years.
The Assembly Select Committee, processing legislation during a special session scheduled to conclude Friday, decided to move $2.1 million from after-school and summer-school programs to beef up funding for kindergarten.
“This has caused some very serious distress,” said Raggio, presiding over the Senate. “The Distributive School Account was approved by the joint committees.”
He said the Assembly voted “to begin a program that was not agreed to.”
“I don’t see it as a big deal,” said Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson. “He sees it as a big deal.”
Perkins said kindergarten is where the school districts say they need the money most. He said that would help fund reduction of the average kindergarten class to a maximum of 22 students. Washoe and Clark school officials said they are facing kindergarten classes of 40 and more and need more money.
“The concept was something we had agreed to in our core meeting a week and a half ago,” he said. “It’s really a little change.”
Perkins pointed out that moving the money doesn’t change the total funding for public schools.
Raggio said if one element can be opened up for change, he is concerned other elements will be opened up, forcing large-scale renegotiation of the education funding package which makes up more than 35 percent of the budget.
The Senate committee agreed to recommend adoption of the education funding plan as worked out during the regular session. Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, said he believes that action will send a message to the Assembly to not attempt changes in what was a hard-fought compromise last week.
Perkins said he would have preferred Raggio put his committee tax plan into the DSA legislation to prevent grandstanding by tax opponents.
“If he sends three separate bills down here, I’ll probably roll them together because, if I don’t, there’ll be some of those people who vote for education and against taxes,” he said.