Las Vegas Sun

October 24, 2014

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Governor to inherit education cushion

CARSON CITY - Gov. Kenny Guinn intends to leave his successor with a budget that includes $100 million to help failing schools.

"This is really important with all the mandates of the "No Child Left Behind" Act, said Guinn's press secretary, Steve George. "It's important to the education process."

Guinn took the matter to the 2005 Legislature, which approved $100 million in 2005, giving $78 million for innovative programs and $22 million for a full-day kindergarten pilot program.

While Guinn will have left office by the time the 2007 Legislature meets, he is preparing a budget for the fiscal years 2007-08 and 2008-09. His successor will have the opportunity to make changes before sending the budget to the Legislature for approval.

The $100 million is in the base budget that the governor will build on. Any money for kindergarten would have to be added on top of that.

Guinn has not made a decision on whether to expand all-day kindergarten, George said.

"It is something the governor will give strong consideration to if the money is in the budget," he said.

But Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said the Assembly Democrats would "push for complete full-day kindergarten" in the 2007 session.

The Democrats obtained $22 million in 2005 to start kindergarten classes next school year in an estimated 118 schools. Buckley said about $40 million additional would be needed to complete all the schools in Nevada.

"It's a high priority for the next budget," said Buckley, who noted Guinn's 2003 State of the State address. The governor's full-day kindergarten would "deliver immediate, as well as long-term academic and social benefits."

Buckley said it's "amazing the difference" between children who attend full-day kindergarten and those who don't.

"We're seeing first graders beginning to read," she said.

With the Legislature approving the $100 million, the state was able to free up more money with federal funds for troubled schools.

The state Commission on Educational Excellence earlier this year distributed $87 million to more than 470 public schools to start innovative programs to boost lagging student achievement. And it is getting ready to take applications from schools for another $5 million.

George Ann Rice, chairwoman of the excellence commission, said the students involved in these programs won't be tested until March or April next year to learn if there is progress. That will be in the middle of the Legislature.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said there "would be no indication of what the $100 million has done." The Legislature "has to understand what the money has achieved" before it would be willing to approve another allocation, said Raggio, chairman of the Education Committee.

Gloria Dopf, deputy state superintendent of public instruction, said Friday that a $448,000 contract has been awarded to the Center for Performance Assessment of Englewood, Colo., to evaluate the programs.

The center will make its first report at the end of June. Another report will be made to the Legislature in January, and the final report is due on June 30, 2007.

Each school will report its progress to the district, and the center will then make the evaluation.

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