Las Vegas Sun

March 25, 2019

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Committee votes for mandatory kindergarten, ads on buses

CARSON CITY - Armed with a subcommittee's recommendation to require kindergarten for all six-year-olds, the Assembly Education Committee has endorsed bills that mandate kindergarten and allow ads on school buses.

AB6, introduced by Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, mandates kindergarten for all Nevada six-year-olds unless their parents contact the school and ask to keep the children at home.

If the children are kept at home, AB6 requires that they be tested at age seven to make sure they are prepared for first grade. If they fail the test, the children would be sent to kindergarten.

The bill was amended during a subcommittee hearing to let parents opt out of kindergarten. It's designed to appease those who want to teach their children at home while helping those children who aren't being taught by their parents, subcommittee chairman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, said.

Giunchigliani said Monday she agreed with the amendments and likes the bill in its final form.

"It preserves the intent. The bottom line still is that children need to be prepared in some way before entering first grade," Giunchigliani said.

Giunchigliani said she's planning additional bills to ensure that kindergartens are fully funded and that school districts have the option of offering full-day kindergartens for at-risk youth.

"Studies are showing us that those at-risk kids perform much better if they're given a chance to go to school all day," Giunchigliani said.

The bill will apply to the 10 percent of Nevada's six-years-olds who don't currently attend kindergarten for some reason, Giunchigliani said. That totals more than 2,000 children.

Assemblywoman Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, voted against the measure because she said testing children before first grade unfairly targets them.

"As far as testing goes, I'd like to see every child tested at the end of every grade," Cegavske said. "I have a problem with only testing the kids who are being home-schooled."

Also on the committee's agenda Monday was AB146, which allows schools to put advertising on their buses. The bill, sponsored by Manendo, stipulates that the revenue be used for books, equipment and field trips.

Assemblyman Dario Herrera, D-Las Vegas, asked that the revenue collected from advertising be earmarked for at-risk schools in each district. Herrera said at-risk schools are partly defined by how many students are low-income or are receiving free lunches.

Herrera said he has seven of Clark County's 61 seriously at-risk schools in his district.

"The bottom line is that we have an opportunity to make a difference and we should take that opportunity and give it to the kids who need it most," Herrera said.

But Kathy Von Tobel, R-Las Vegas, argued that schools in her district, which includes Mesquite and Overton, might not be considered "at-risk" but are still in need of money.

Von Tobel also said that state law already allows schools to place ads on buses if they choose to.

"My biggest fear is now coming to pass. We're taking something that is very simple, letting schools put ads on their buses, and now we are micromanaging," Von Tobel said. "We don't need this law. The 17 school districts in our state already have the means to do this."

Still, the committee voted to amend the bill, requesting that districts first consider at-risk schools when distributing advertising revenue.