Las Vegas Sun

October 13, 2015

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Legislature 2013:

In effort to reduce class sizes, bill would send more money to districts

The bill to send more than $2 billion in state support to local school districts has been unveiled, and its primary focus is reducing the size of classes in the primary grades.

There have been complaints during this session that there are too many students in the early grades — sometimes 30 in a classroom.

Senate Bill 522 would raise the state’s average support per pupil from the present $5,374 to $5,590 next school year and to $5,676 in fiscal 2015.

The bill, introduced by the Senate Finance Committee, must be passed by both houses of the Legislature first before other appropriation acts are approved by the deadline of midnight Monday.

The measure appropriates enough money to lower the teacher-student ratio to 1-to-16 in at-risk kindergarten classes and in grades one and two in the next two fiscal years. And there is enough money for a 1-to-19 teacher ratio in grade three.

Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said that is one of the primary goals of this session to lower the teacher-student ratio.

Joyce Haldeman of the Clark County School District said the emphasis on “class size reduction is really important to us.” She said the state has recognized it is “needed to take care of early childhood education that gets the kids off to a good start.”

Craig Stevens of the Nevada State Education Association, which represents teachers, said it is important money is being allocated for class size reduction. “It’s almost historical. They have never done that before.”

Under the bill, there is enough money to hire 2,194 teachers next school year to achieve the class size target.

The bill says the goal of the Legislature is to reduce the teacher-student ratio in grade three to 1-to-15 and grades four to six to 1-to-22. But there’s not enough money available at this time to reach those goals.

The average state support per pupil in Clark County is $5,457 per student next school year. That does not include the local tax revenue support.

Clark County is third from the bottom in average state support. For instance, Esmeralda County receives $15,916 per student in state school support. But Eureka County gets only $100 per student because of the heavy support from local mining taxes.

Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, has said the school aid formula is unfair to Southern Nevada.

A committee is being recommended to study overhauling the state formula.

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