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School officials push lawmakers for money to cut class sizes

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Updated: 3/23/2013 12:47 pm
By Cy Ryan
LAS VEGAS SUN

CARSON CITY — A parade of educators told legislative budget committees Saturday that more money must be poured into reducing class sizes in the elementary grades to help students advance.

“We have to restore class size,” said Pat Skorkowsky, interim superintendent of the Clark County School District. “Our teachers are asked to do more and more with less.”

An overflow crowd in Las Vegas attended the hearing, which was televised from Carson City.

Jeremy Christensen, a high school teacher in Clark County, called it child abuse when children are packed into a classroom.

Ruben Murillo, president of the Clark County Education Association, said the state’s distributive school account that funds education is unfair and that teachers are asked to do more with less.

James Guthrie, state superintendent of public instruction, said Nevada spends $8,000 per student, which ranks third or fourth from the bottom in the nation. But teacher salaries rank 15th- to 18th-highest, he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget allocates $320 million over the next two fiscal years to maintain the class sizes. However, there is no added money to lower the growing numbers in each classroom, the educators said.

Skorkowsky told the joint Senate-Assembly budget committees that the ratio in elementary schools is 34 students to 1 teacher. In grades six through 12, the breakdown is 38 students to 1 teacher.

Also, 1,500 more students are expected next school year, adding to enrollment of 311,280, he said. Mobile classrooms will be needed to handle the growth.

In addition, there is an estimate of more than 95,000 students who are classified as English language learners, but only an estimated 45,000 are being served, Skorkowsky said.

To keep up, Skorkowsky said the district has had to reduce its reserve money from 2 percent to 1 percent. And music and art classes may have to be reduced to provide money for lower class sizes.

“This scares me to death,” he told committee members.

State money to meet the 15-1 class-size reduction in the primary grades was reduced during state budget cuts. The state Department of Education presented figures that showed the class sizes in Clark County in 2013 were 21.2 in first grade, 21.5 students in second grade and 23.6 students in third grade.

The joint committees said on Monday that it would take up the issue of money for instruction of students who speak limited English.

News3 reporter Krystal Allan will have more on this subject on tonight's newscasts at 5, 6 and 11 p.m.


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