State of the State: Education a priority

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) Nevada's new governor Steve Sisolak outlined an ambitious agenda in his first State of the State Address Wednesday night.

If his address had an overall theme, it was that the benefits of Nevada's expanding economy should be felt in every corner of the state, and that included its classrooms. And he said that starts with every teacher.

"It has been over a decade since the state has directly funded a raise for our K-12 educators. Tonight, I want that to change. Legislators, I am asking you to stand with me and stand with our educators by including them in the 3% pay raise for state employees for the first time in 12 years."

Noting that many teachers dig into their own pockets to buy basic supplies, he proposed raising the reimbursement to each teacher to $180.

The governor called for reviewing a decades-old plan to ensure education dollars are spent equally in all sections of the state, proposing nearly doubling funding for the New Nevada Plan, which targets at-risk students.

"My recommended increases in funding for the New Nevada Plan will increase from $36 million to $70 million per year, meaning that an additional 28,200 at-risk students will receive the academic support they need, no matter what school they attend."

And he proposed using a proportion of the marijuana tax to fund school safety.

"The need for safer schools is a dark reality today, and we need to fund these initiatives. I want to thank the Statewide School Safety Task Force for their hard work identifying key proposals to enhance security at our schools, including more police officers, and funding for additional social and behavioral health workers."

He also called for increased spending for pre-school development, early reading education and state scholarships.

In general his proposals were applauded by the state education association, though Republican lawmakers questioned the costs of some of his proposals.

He said it could be accomplished without raising any new taxes, although his budget includes continuing at least two taxes which are due to sunset.

After the speech, the Washoe County School District issued a statement:

"The Washoe County School District appreciates Governor Sisolak’s commitment to improving and investing in education in Nevada. We are eager to work with him on our shared priorities of expanding Career and Technical Education, increasing our focus on school safety, mental health services, counseling for students, and increased compensation for educators, as well as increased funding to support the basic achievement needs of every Nevada student.

"Our District commends Governor Sisolak’s acknowledgement that students in WCSD should receive the $8.6 million that was not allocated in the prior budget due to a miscalculation by the State. We will continue working with the State to prevent such a situation in the future.

"We applaud Governor Sisolak for his ongoing support of education in Nevada, and eagerly anticipate working in partnership with him and the Legislature going forward."