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February 1, 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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  1. Part 1 0f 2
    When we talk about the kind of learning environment that nurtures growth, we have to look at not only class size, but other underlying factores that contribute to a child's success or failure. The effects of recent budget cuts has been far reaching at most schools, with loss of motivational incentives for students, larger class sizes, scarce educational supplies and functioning equipment, fewer services, and less parent involvement.

    Keep in mind that teachers have little to no control over the "mix" of students going into their classes. To insure educational reform, we need to dig deeper and look at some traditional practices that have an impact on students and teachers. This time of year, grade level teachers gather to sort out students with "pinks and blues" according to where they would most likely thrive for the next school year.

    On those cards, teachers sort according to needs, based on the child's academic performance, behaviors, ELL status, parent involvement, and any interventions and services they require. All this scrutiny can be for naught if the parent decides to move over the summer, or a flood of new students enroll this fall that are unknowns and are variables in this mix that could potentially shift dynamics.

    Once these pink and blue cards are determined, the go to the administration for final sorting with specialists, and can and does usually end up being different than what the teachers originally decided collectively on. This secord go round is a source of frustration, as someone else is overriding academic teachers (think those who teach the subjects that students are tested on) who work closely all year with these children academically. Maybe we need to look at how effective this traditional, yearly practice is.

    Another factor affecting student outcomes is having to do with the mental health of our young people coming TO school. This is especially true with our at-risk populations, but not limited to just them. Many days, they arrive unable to focus on their schoolwork due to emotional issues. We need to provide sustainable mental health access for our students, as we are dealing with a WHOLE person, and when that person is suffering, they most certainly cannot maintain their focus on their schooling, they cannot do their best while in turmoil and pain. No one can. Many times, students go YEARS unable to reach their potential because their family fails to follow through on purchasing prescribed reading glasses--net result: low achievement and declining motivation to learn. Local organizations no longer have yearlong funding resources to kindly help out our most needy, as they had before. School counselors are extremely limited in the scope of their services at schools, and simply "referring" students and/or their families to outside services rarely, if ever is followed through, mostly due to the parents.

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. Star, I have never heard of this pink and blue system. Do you know for a fact that this is going on in the CCSD?