School superintendents lay out education plan calling for $900 million |

School superintendents lay out education plan calling for $900 million

by Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

Nevada’s public school officials on Tuesday asked for more than $900 million in budget increases as part of their plan to improve the state’s schools.

Washoe School Board member Ann Loring said AB266 is designed to “stabilize basic support of our school system,” attract and keep quality teachers and expand instruction time for all students — particularly those with special needs.

Nearly a third of the programs in AB266 are already in Gov. Kenny Guinn’s proposed budget — including expensive items such as more than $24 million to provide full-day kindergarten for at risk students.

Loring told the Assembly Ways and Means Committee school districts understand the state can’t afford all of the expansions at once. But she said lawmakers asked school officials to tell them what is needed, and AB266 does that.

The bill starts with a request for $158.5 million to restore school district ending fund balances to 5 percent. Administrators said some districts don’t have enough extra in the bank to operate even one full day in an emergency.

The biggest single item on the list is salaries. School officials said $268 million more would pay for 5 percent pay increases each of the next two years.

They also asked funding for signing bonuses to attract new teachers and special stipends for math, English as a second language, special education, psychologists and teachers in at-risk schools. Altogether, those bonuses would cost $33 million over the next two years.

They asked the school year be increased by five days at a cost of $87 million over the two-year budget and that $14 million be put in the budget for tutoring and summer sessions.

To teach the growing number of students who speak little or no English, they requested $87 million to create more classes for technical and career classes aimed at those not headed for college.

Their plan would use $56 million to create alternative programs in every Nevada school for disruptive students and put $39 million into textbooks and materials.

Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, questioned how lawmakers would determine the funding was accomplishing anything.

“Every single section of this program has accountability in it,” said Clark County Superintendent Carlos Garcia. He said the so-called “InVest Program” won’t happen overnight.

“What InVest does is set out a vision,” he said.

The committee took no action on AB266.