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May 23, 2015

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School officials warn of jobs cuts, larger classes under proposed budget

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Heather Cory / File photo

Clark County School District officials say Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget would mean job cuts and larger class sizes to make up for a possible $250 million shortfall next fiscal year. A classroom at Green Valley High School is shown here.

Budget cuts

KSNV coverage of Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed state budget, Jan. 25, 2011.

Sun Coverage

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed reduced budget for education could result in possibly thousands of employee layoffs and bigger class sizes in the Clark County School District, the district's chief financial officer said Wednesday.

School superintendents from Washoe and Nye counties also echoed the statements of Jeff Weiler in their presentations to budget committees holding hearings in advance of the opening of the Legislature.

Weiler said the Clark County School District faces a potential $250 million shortfall next fiscal year.

The governor has proposed reducing the average statewide per student support from $5,192 this fiscal year to $4,918 in each of the next two fiscal years.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said he disagrees with Sandoval's proposed budget for education. The Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee will hold further hearings on education.

Horsford said the governor’s budget doesn’t take into account the loss of some federal funds, such as stimulus money.

Superintendent Heath Morrison of Washoe County and Superintendent Rob Roberts of Nye County agreed the cutbacks would mean larger class sizes and layoffs of teachers.

The three officials, however, all urged the committees to grant local school districts more flexibility in how they use state money. The governor wants to give a block grant to school districts, rather than funding separate programs such as class size reduction, special elementary counselors and gifted and talented units.

Under the governor’s budget there would be an $18 million reduction in the amount of money going to school districts in the block grant.

Sandoval, in his State of the State message, said the public school system was broken and needed to be overhauled.

Roberts told the committee, “I don’t think the system is broken, but it is severely underfunded.” He said the proposed $270 cut in per-student funding “puts us further in the hole and more difficult to climb out of.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, questioned whether there were any statistics to show if students in smaller classes performed better.

Keith Rheault, state superintendent of public instruction, said there have been no formal studies, but teachers and parents believe it help students, he said.

Weiler also said the plan by the governor to switch part of the money in a bond reserve account to operations would result in the district either raising its property tax levy in Clark County or extending the life of the bonds from 20 to 30 years.

He said that would cost the district 1 to 2 percent more and could hurt its bond rating.

Morrison told the committees that a bill draft has been prepared to extend the probationary period for new teachers from one to three years. A teacher now achieves tenure after one year.

He said this would give the district more time to evaluate the teacher to determine if he or she should be kept.

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