Legislative Houses Have Competing Plans for School Funding

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Senate Finance members have cut $72 million from Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn's public education budget - but Assembly Ways and Means members have added nearly $164 million to the plan.

The Assembly panel voted Wednesday for an additional two-percent raise for teachers in the first year of the budget beyond Guinn's proposed two-percent raise, and another four-percent in the second year at a cost of $157 million, accounting for most of the increase.

Senate Finance voted to allow class size reduction money to be used in grades first through fifty at a ratio of 22 pupils per teacher instead of a current lower ratio, accounting for most of the budget savings at $46 million.

The other major savings comes from not funding Guinn's plan to establish a full-day kindergarten in at-risk schools at a cost of $24 million.

The Assembly voted to keep class size reduction in its current ratios in grades 1, 2 and 3 at a cost of $222 million over two years, plus adding kindergarten in the second year of the budget.

Both versions include the two-percent raises sought for teachers by Guinn, $38 million for textbooks and some form of bonuses for teachers in special fields such as math or who work in at-risk schools, totaling about $33 million.

General fund spending on public education in the Senate plan would total just over $1.6 billion, up 31-percent from the current two-year budget. It was OK'd with Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, voting "no."

The Assembly version would see general fund spending reach $1.85 billion, a 50-percent increase. Assembly members Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, and John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain, voted against the budget plan.

The Assembly version also includes several other costly items on a "wish list" for possible funding, including adding five days to the school year in the second year of the budget at a cost of $45 million.

The two panels now have until Monday to find a compromise.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)