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Lawmakers pushing to give more money to education

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Updated: 4/11/2013 11:33 am
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3 -- It is crunch time in Carson City. Lawmakers are reading through bills as fast as they can ahead of Friday's big deadline to get them moving, or let them die.

Much of the focus Wednesday was on education. News 3's capitol correspondent Mackenzie Warren is tracking all the changes that could be on the way to a classroom near you.

There is more money to go around this session but lawmakers say it won't be enough to fill the gaps in the classroom.

Nevada is ranked last in the nation when it comes to education. Although everyone agrees that statistic should change they say the battle over the money is just beginning.

“It feels good right now because we're not cutting the budgets,” said Sen. Debbie Smith (D-Sparks).

But Sen. Smith doesn't want parents to be fooled. Despite an optimistic governor who has added $160 million more to K through 12 education.

“Classes are bigger than they've ever been --they're going to continue that way unless we add some money in the budget to fix that,” Smith said.

Smith is focused at the kindergarten level by backing a bill that makes full-day-kindergarten mandatory and available at all Nevada schools.

”I’m really troubled by the inequity of our full day K--we have some schools that have it--some that don’t--some that parents can pay for--and everything in between,” she said.

Smith wants a level playing field, so does Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis (D-Las Vegas) when it comes to English language learners.

“Our ELL population is quite large." Denis said. "It’s a big chunk of our kids. If we can help those kids than it helps everybody because as they learn then the rest of the kids in those same classes are going to be able to learn more,”

Denis says if lawmakers ignore the 52,000 kids in Clark County School District struggling to understand their teachers, graduation rates and college readiness can't improve.

“One of the most important things--but it's so technical it gets lost in the discussion,” Smith said.

Smith is also pushing for a state-wide teacher evaluation system that holds principals accountable, too.

“So that you can tie teacher success with student success and all together and that way you'll be able to make that part of the evaluation system,” Smith said.

Smith says the desire to improve education is there and even though more money is coming she says it's not nearly enough.

“I think that's the most important thing i can say. I don’t think everything is OK.”

Senator Smith is realistic and she's asking for more money than Gov. Sandoval is offering but she's willing to try.

The first big deadline comes on Friday at midnight when all bills must pass out of the committee they started in but there are lots of exemptions.

If lawmakers like them, bills that cost money will get kicked to finance committee for further consideration. There is great consensus on policy it just comes down to the money.
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