Las Vegas Sun

May 24, 2015

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Hundreds urge lawmakers to battle proposed cuts to education

It was a standing-room only, largely partisan crowd Monday night at Green Valley High School that urged state lawmakers to fight budget cuts in education proposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. The crowd consisted mainly of teachers and those who supported them.

Perhaps the most poignant testimony, however, was by an 8-year-old boy whose swinging feet didn't touch the floor as he sat and leaned toward the microphone.

Christopher Hughes, a third-grader at Beatty Elementary School, told the joint subcommittee of the Legislature: "I am worried."

Hughes said budget cuts would hurt education but also the availability of school nurses. He said he has diabetes.

Hughes said later, "I testified because I want to protect every program in my school, including library, art, music and physical education." He added: "The other kids are upset, too, because they like learning."

His mother, Geo Hughes, said there were times in the past when Christopher's blood sugar ran low and he became sick. Sometimes there wasn't a full-time school nurse or paraprofessional available, she said.

"Christopher is a bright child," his mother said. "He's in a program for gifted and academically talented students. I'm afraid programs like that won't be there for my son."

The hearing was co-chaired by Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Sen. Steven Horsford, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Horsford is also the state Senate majority leader. Both are Democrats.

Republicans, such as Assistant Senate Minority Leader Barbara Cegavske, also attended.

Jeff Weiler, the Clark County School District's chief financial officer, testified that cuts proposed by Sandoval exceed $250 million or more per year.

The cuts equal $870 per student, Weiler said, with current spending at about $7,000 each year.

The first constituent who testified was 72-year-old Dan Hickey, a physician's assistant in Las Vegas.

"My daddy said don't spend money that you don't got," said Hickey, to silence. He said the school district had services that were duplicated by local government, including school district police.

Hickey concluded by telling the lawmakers: "Don't spend money that I don't got."

More popular were remarks like that of John J. Carr, president of the Education Support Employees Association: "Mr. Sandoval, this is not 'Little House on the Prairie.' Don't fund it as if it were."

The auditorium at Green Valley was crowded mainly with adults, while about 200 students and parents outside the room listened on a public-address system.

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