CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons released an eight-point plan today to cut state spending by implementing reforms to the Nevada public education system that include eliminating collective bargaining for public schools and local governments, and the class-size reduction program.
“The manner in which education is delivered to children should not be dictated by unions, which by definition promote only the interests of their members to the exclusion of other interests and stakeholders such as parents, school boards and most importantly, students,” Gibbons said in a statement.
He proposed the Legislature consider his plan during a coming special legislative session dealing with the state’s fiscal problems.
That session will not be called by Gibbons until after Jan. 22 when the state Economic Forum meets and decides how much state revenue will be available for state government to spend through June 30, 2011, the end of the state’s two-year budget cycle. The forum is a group of five business leaders who by law determine how much tax revenue will be received by the tax.
Because of a $67 million shortfall in the July-through-September quarter, Gibbons has asked state agencies and schools to prepare for cuts of as much as 10 percent, or $436 million, because of declining tax revenue.
Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said Republican Gibbons’ plans have little chance of passing with Democrats holding control of both houses of the Legislature.
“This ideas can be looked at, but this agenda would be very difficult to pass,” he said.
Legislative records show that Gibbons himself as an assemblyman in 1989 voted in favor of the original bill creating the class-size reduction program. That bill was approved unanimously.
Then in 1991, Gibbons supported expanding collective bargaining so that it would apply not only to teachers, but also to state employees. Democratic Gov. Bob Miller vetoed the bill passed by the Legislature.
Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association, called Gibbons’ proposal to eliminate class-size reduction, full-day kindergarten and other programs “outrageous.”
“It is unfortunate kids are being used as pawns in a political game,” Warne said. “The governor plays politics with their lives.”
Warne said the per pupil funding (about $5,000 a year) that the state provides for each student already is among the lowest in the country.
But in a statement, Gibbons said the class-size reduction program has not produced results in its 20 years of existence, noting the 142 public schools in Nevada were judged as low-performing by the U.S. Department of Education.
Under class-size reduction, legislators provide additional funding to school districts to keep class sizes at a one teacher to 16 pupils ratio in the first three grades. Sufficient funds to maintain that ratio have not been provided and many districts, including Clark County, have sought waivers for the class-size requirement.
“If class-size reduction is the answer for improving K-12 in Nevada, why haven’t student test scores improved dramatically in the last 20 years?” Gibbons stated.
Gibbons also wants the Legislature in a coming special session to issue vouchers to allow parents to send their children to private schools, eliminate full-day kindergarten in some schools and abolish the state Board of Education. He would replace the current elected board with a five-member board appointed by him and the Legislature.
In addition, he proposes eliminating the “hold harmless” clause in state laws that allow school districts to keep their current funds for a couple of years even if enrollment is dropping.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.