Legislators, educators begin talks | NevadaAppeal.com

Legislators, educators begin talks

by Maggie O'Neill

Nevada legislators showed little support for a long-term funding and accountability proposal called “Invest” during a special meeting Monday night with school boards and superintendents from four counties.

The meeting was called to discuss education issues important to both sides prior to the 2005 Legislature.

“If nothing else, they were all together in listening,” said Norm Scoggins, a Carson City school board member and president-elect of the Nevada Association of School Boards. “You never know what’s going to come out of these meetings.”

Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City; Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville; Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington; and Senators Mark Amodei, R-Carson City; Randolph Townsend, R-Reno; and Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, attended the meeting at Carson High School.

School boards trustees and superintendents from Carson City and Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties also attended.

The 2005 Invest plan, developed by Nevada’s 17 superintendents and supported by each school board, is about investing in Nevada’s education, students and teachers.

The proposal prioritizes 13 education issues, including augmented funding for books and educational supplies, salary increases to keep up with the costs of living and additional funding for English-language learners to meet requirements under No Child Left Behind.

“It is a plan for student achievement,” said Carson City School District Superintendent Mary Pierczynski. “And I felt they understood that.

The plan seeks $646 million in funding, money superintendents and board members are hopeful, but also realistic, about.

“We realize that getting all of these is a pie in the sky,” Scoggins said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to accomplish some of them at this session.”

Not one of the legislators committed to any of the specific points of the plan, although they spoke passionately about the ones they liked.

Hettrick and Townsend both showed interest in No. 12, greater funding for career and technical education. Parnell said she was interested in class size reduction flexibility, No. 13.

“It’s bothered me for a long time that we have class-size reduction in first, second and third grade, but in kindergarten, you start in an overcrowded classroom with 38, 39 or 40 kids in the classroom. To me that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Still, superintendents are holding out for some support of Invest. Pierczynski would like to see additional funding for English-language learning passed. Douglas County School District Superintendent John Soderman doesn’t want to begin pulling the plan to pieces, at least no yet.

“We’re going for all 13 or pieces of the 13, and the realities of the session will tell us what we can expect,” he said.

Amodei suggested that school officials look at ways to resolve their issues.

“Don’t simply say we need more resources,” he said. “Say, ‘Here’s how we could go about getting more resources.'”

Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at mo’neill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.