More closed-door meetings held on education | NevadaAppeal.com

More closed-door meetings held on education

BRENDAN RILEY
Associated Press Writer

Legislative leaders held another closed-door meeting Tuesday in efforts to reach an Assembly-Senate compromise on Nevada’s big K-12 education budget, but the session ended after about two hours just as previous sessions had – with no solution.

However, Assembly Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, one of the negotiators, said the lawmakers weren’t that far apart on the public schools spending plan – which must be resolved before other budgets can be closed.

Education First, approved by voters in the past two general elections, forces lawmakers to approve public education funding before they can appropriate funds for transportation, social services, public safety or any other state entity.

In his budget request, Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons proposed two-year spending of $2.27 billion for public schools. “We’re so close,” Arberry said, saying the difference between the Senate and Assembly K-12 budget versions was only about $3 million.

“It’s really critical that we come to a decision,” Arberry said, noting that the lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn June 4 and the total state budget of nearly $7 billion will take a week to be put into print so that final votes can be taken.

Democrats who control the Assembly wanted more money put into public education this session, particularly for an expansion of all-day kindergarten even if the program can’t be fully funded over the next two years.

Democrats also wanted to keep much of the $60 million proposed by Gibbons for empowerment schools in a current program that provides additional compensation to teachers in hard-to-fill teaching subjects and to those who teach in at-risk schools.

Last week, Gibbons agreed to drop his plan to take $60 million from the teachers’ incentive plan to fund his empowerment program.

Empowerment schools still would be created by the Legislature through a policy measure, but with a lower funding level.