Proposed state funding cuts to education would eliminate jobs, wipe out entire college programs and ensure that crowded public school classrooms stay that way, said protesters who took their opposition to the Strip on Sunday.
Hundreds of people gathered for the march that began at noon near the Bellagio and proceeded west on Flamingo Road to the Palms. Las Vegas police estimated the crowd ranged from between 200 to 700 people. One officer, who asked not to be named, said the group grew in size as the march progressed.
Natalie Aguilar, who is pursuing a master's degree in criminal justice at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said students are worried that cuts will jeopardize their futures.
"We don't want our schools to get cut," Aguilar said. "We want our degrees."
Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed a $5.8 billion state budget for 2011-13, with significant cuts to public education. His budget shows a 9 percent, or $212 million, drop in state support from current spending for public schools. Higher education faces $162.4 million in cuts to state support, which would reduce state spending on colleges and universities to 2003 levels, higher education officials have said.
Police described the group as peaceful.
Protesters held signs and chanted "Recall Sandoval," and "48th in the nation, we need education."
Dee-dee Sanders, an English teacher at Liberty High School in Henderson, said she participated in the protest because Clark County School District teachers "need a voice," and the Legislature can't keep "gouging from the working class."
Sanders said she is worried about losing her job.
District officials have said the proposed cuts would magnify the impact of earlier budget cuts to public education. The school district, for example, has eliminated 1,734 positions since 2007 to make up for a series of budget shortfalls totaling $375 million.
The demonstrators said Sunday the protest was organized by UNLV students. Word of it spread to other Southern Nevada campuses through social networking websites, including Facebook and Twitter.
The protest followed the late February announcement from College of Southern Nevada President Michael Richards that he may have to close one of three campuses and most or all of its nine satellite centers because of funding reductions. Richards said CSN stands to lose about $26 million under the governor's proposed budget.
Under Sandoval's proposal, UNLV will have to cut $47.5 million from its budget over the next two years, officials have said.
Demonstrators on Sunday waved signs urging passing motorists to honk in support of education. Other signs read: "Stop the War on Education" and "Note to Sandoval: We Vote."
Several protesters who spoke to the Review-Journal said the Legislature needs to seriously consider raising taxes instead of cutting education funding.
Aaron McKinnon, who said he attended UNLV on several government-sponsored scholarships, is afraid that state and federal cuts to public education will one day limit students' ability to seek government assistance to pay for college.
McKinnon, who dropped out of UNLV to start a family, said his 11-year-old son feels the effects of the cuts directly at his elementary school, where teachers have at least 30 students per class.
McKinnon said, "It's all going to affect me and my son down the road."
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638.