As budgets shrink, Clark County school class sizes keep growing

Some teachers already call it the "big squeeze."

Others see the prospect of packing more students into Clark County School District classrooms as a state mandate to "Stack ’em deep, teach ’em cheap."

The number of students sitting in front of teachers at all grade levels is likely to increase next year, as district officials wrestle with how to improve student performance during a severe fiscal crisis.

It’s a bad marriage of issues, said Clark County Education Association President Ruben Murillo.

He leads the union that bargains for the district’s 18,000 teachers and nonadministrative licensed personnel.

"You can’t cut your way to better student performance," Murillo said.

The debate over class size in public schools is being waged on three different fronts.

■ In Clark County, education leaders are relying on class-size increases across all grade levels to help remedy a 2011-12 budget shortfall that may exceed $400 million, courtesy of expected reductions in state support and declining local tax revenues.

Students in secondary grades will bear the brunt of the crunch. Officials expect to raise the average class size in grades 6-12 from 32 students to 34.

Murillo points out that many classes will exceed that average, especially in core subjects such as English and math, which all students must take. Teachers in those courses may well end up having classes that exceed 50, he said.

In addition, the district may lay off as more than 850 teachers, and fewer teachers means fewer course offerings and bigger classes in those that remain.

■ In Carson City, the issue is enmeshed with Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed $2.4 billion K-12 budget for 2011-13, which represents an 11 percent drop from the $2.7 billion spent in 2009-2011, according to an analysis presented to the Legislature.

The Republican governor’s proposal, opposed by Democrats who are the majority in both the Assembly and state Senate, is paired with a package of school reforms. One change would make class-size reduction in grades 1-3 optional instead of mandatory.

Under Assembly Bill 558, funding that would have been used for class-size reduction and other programs would instead be diverted into an education block grant program that would be available to county districts for special uses.

Clark County School District officials oppose that bill, said Joyce Haldeman, associate superintendent for government and community relations, because the funding and distribution formulas dilute the effectiveness of key district programs, including class-size reduction and full-day kindergarten.

It also would drastically reduce the state funding that will be available for class-size reduction, she said. For the current school year, the Legislature approved spending $144.35 million on class-size reduction.

Another bill, AB129 sponsored by Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, proposes changes to class-size reduction law the district finds more palatable. It would repeal the statewide requirements for class-size reduction and give local school boards the authority to establish their own pupil-teacher ratios for elementary schools.

"The best decisions are made close to the issue," said Kirner, adding that a one-size-fits-all, statewide approach to class-size reduction is not the ideal.

AB129 doesn’t take money away from the program, Kirner said. Instead, it tells local districts, "You’re accountable, but you also have the power to make adjustments."

■ Nationally, the effectiveness of class-size reduction continues to be hotly debated by education researchers and competing policy groups.

In a report released by the Center for American Progress called "The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction," Matthew Chingos, a fellow with the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, criticizes the lack of quality research into the impact of class-size reduction on student achievement.

He also questions whether the billions of dollars poured into class-size reduction efforts by states and the federal government in recent decades have yielded results worth the investment.

Large-scale class-size reduction policies "clearly fail any cost-benefit test, because they entail steep costs and produce benefits that are modest at best," Chingos wrote in the report.

"When school finances are limited (as they always are), the cost-benefit test any educational policy must pass is not ‘Does this policy have any positive effect?’ but rather ‘Is this policy the most productive use of these educational dollars?’ "

The report from the Center for American Progress, a progressive group based in Washington, D.C., was criticized almost immediately by Class Size Matters, a New York nonprofit organization that advocates for smaller classes.

The Class Size Matters group termed the report "highly flawed," especially in its criticisms of Florida’s class-size reduction efforts.

"Lowering class size is only one of four K-12 reforms that, according to the Institute of Education Sciences, have been proven to work through rigorous evidence," according to a Class Size Matters rebuttal on its website.

Nevada’s debate plays out in much the same way. The state’s class-size reduction program, enacted by the 1989 Legislature, has come under fire from Republicans and conservative policy groups as an expensive and ineffective means of improving student performance.

By the end of fiscal year 2010-11, the state will have spent about $1.83 billion on class-size reduction since the effort began, according to the 2011 Nevada Education Data Book distributed to legislators.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank, has been outspoken in its criticism of class-size reduction.

"It’s a great example of a policy that sounds good but is not effective in improving student achievement," said Andy Matthews, the institute’s vice president of operations.

He also takes issue with how much has been spent on smaller classes in the Silver State.

A far better use for the funds is investing in programs that improve teacher quality, which is directly linked to higher student achievement, Matthews said.

State Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, supports class-size reduction.

His wife is a kindergarten teacher at Ronnow Elementary School, near Pecos Road and Washington Avenue, and he said he has observed the difference class-size reduction makes. Larger classes lead to delays in identifying students who are falling behind and create student safety issues because adult supervision has been stretched too thin, he says.

"You can be the world’s greatest teacher, but when you get 50 to 60 kids in a classroom how effective are you going to be?" Denis asked.

Because of Nevada’s ongoing fiscal crisis, lawmakers in a 2010 special session authorized school districts to increase primary grade class sizes by no more than two pupils per teacher in each grade.

That allowed pupil-to-teacher ratios of up to 18:1 in grades 1 and 2, and up to 21:1 in grade 3 during the 2010-11 school year.

In Clark County, those ratios may climb even higher in 2011-12. Class-size increases linked to expected budget shortfalls include going from 18 students to 21 in grades 1 and 2; from 21 students to 24 in grade 3; and from 30 students to 33 in grades 4 and 5.

The only good news regarding class sizes in Clark County came at an April 14 School Board meeting when officials announced that the average class in grades 6-12 would grow by two students instead of three.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler said that the district has $19 million remaining from a two-year, $54 million federal economic stimulus Education Jobs grant. Of the available funds, $9 million will be used to hold down average secondary class sizes to 34 students.

But ramping up the size of classes that already are large is the wrong direction to take in public education, according to Joan Parks, a librarian at the Southwest Career and Technical Academy.

Parks was among hundreds of teachers and district staff who took part in a series of rallies earlier this month to support public education and oppose budget cuts.

Teaching shouldn’t be an exercise in crowd control, she said. "It’s the kids who are going to suffer."

Contact Assistant City Editor Lisa Kim Bach at or 702-383-0287.

Amazon's Alexa Recorded and Shared a Couple’s Conversation
Amazon's Alexa Recorded and Shared a Couple’s Conversation News station KIRO 7 reported a Portland couple’s conversation was recorded and sent to one of their contacts via their Amazon Echo device. They found out when the husband’s employee called him saying, via KIRO 7 The voice-activated assistant is used by more than 60 million U.S. consumers, according to Bloomberg. But what will happen if these devices become digital spies within our homes? Daniel Kahn Gillmor, Daniel Kahn Gillmor, to Bloomberg Daniel Kahn Gillmor, to Bloomberg Amazon Inc. issued a statement that the incident in Portland is an “extremely rare occurrence,” and the company did not state whether it was a bug or due to hacking.
Neighbor talks about 15-year-old alleged shooter
Nolan Turner, 15, who lives across the street from the 15-year-old who allegedly shot and killed his father and shot his mother talks about growing up with the teen. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas teen kills dad, wounds mom before she shoots him
A 15-year-old boy shot his father to death and wounded his mother in a west valley home Thursday morning before being wounded when she got a gun and returned fire, according to Las Vegas police. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers were called just after 10:45 a.m. Thursday on the 9900 block of Barrier Reef Drive, near West Sahara Avenue and South Hualapai Way. In a briefing near the scene, police said the teenager shot his dad in the head, killing him, then shot his mom, who got another gun and returned fire. They said the boy jumped a wall and ran away, but was arrested about a quarter-mile away. Both the teen and his mom were hospitalized and are expected to survive, police said. Police did not immediately identify the family members but said the man was in his early 50s and the woman was in her late 40s. K.M. Cannon/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas Native Troy Brown Jr. Preparing for NBA
Former Centennial High School player Troy Brown Jr., now 18 and one of the most accomplished high school basketball players in the history of Las Vegas, is back in his hometown preparing to play in the NBA. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Closing arguments at David Copperfield civil trial
Attorneys for British tourist Gavin Cox and MGM Resorts make their closing arguments in the David Copperfield civil trial at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Surgeon Performs Successful Rare Pancreas Surgery
Las Vegas resident Mary Duda underwent a pancreatoduodenectomy, or Whipple procedure, for her pancreatic cancer. While the grandmother of 19 recovered, her doctors say she's one of the lucky ones. Pancreatic surgery can be risky and has a high morbidity rate. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Las Vegas police explorer sentenced to 25 years to life in prison
Former Las Vegas police explorer Joshua Honea sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for sexual assault of a minor, but was allowed to remain free on bail pending appeal. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights Fans Line Up to Grab Their Conference Champions Gear
Golden Knights fans lined up at City National Arena Monday to snap up Conference Champions gear and other memorabilia the day after the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup Conference Finals. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas-Review Journal)
Las Vegas shooting survivor has surprise reunion
Oct. 1 mass shooting survivors Taylor Stovall and Parker Gabel meet for the first time since Gabel helped the injured Stovall to an ambulance the night of the shooting. Stovall, then 17, was shot in the arm. They met Friday at the Tropicana.
Hawaii volcano presser
Talmadge Magno of Hawaii Civil Defense gives an update on the Kilauea volcano
Same-Sex Weddings on the Rise in Las Vegas
Allie and Tara Shima finally tied the knot. They've been together for five years and have both been married before. This time, they wanted something simple, quick and cheap, but it still had to feel special. The couple chose Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Courtyard Homeless Resource Center begins building in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Ward 3 Councilman Bob Coffin kicked off the demolition of buildings where the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center will be built. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
"Yanny" or "Laurel" hearing test has gone viral
'Yanny' or 'Laurel?' This Hearing Test Has Gone Viral This hearing test has gone viral on social media with some hearing "Yanny" while others swear hearing "Laurel." The voice is actually saying "Laurel," but the pitch was changed, causing some to hear "Yanny."
LVMPD Briefs on Year's Sixth Officer-Involved Shooting
Las Vegas police have identified the officer who shot a shovel-wielding woman on Saturday as 23-year-old Ondre Wills.
Police release body camera footage of shovel-wielding woman
Las Vegas police identified the woman they said threatened neighbors with a skillet Saturday night. Officer Ondre Wills, 23, shot at Sommer Richards, 34, multiple times on Big Sur Drive, near Nellis Boulevard and Desert Inn Road. Police responded to the area after receiving reports that the woman was armed with a shovel. Police said the woman chased neighbors and a security guard. Wills got between Richards and the others and repeatedly told her to drop the shovel. The woman instead turned and moved toward a person who was standing nearby before the officer fired shots. Police said she bit another officer as he attempted to render aid. Richards remains in serious but stable condition.
College of Southern Nevada Graduates 2017-18 Class
The College of Southern Nevada's graduation ceremony was held at the Thomas & Mack Center Monday. The 2017-18 class was the institution's largest in history. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro looking for suspect in bank robbery.
On Jan. 22, a man robbed a bank in the 8700 block of West Sahara Avenue.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee at opening of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, at opening ceremony of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, speaks about the violence in Gaza. (Debra J. Saunders/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Supreme Court strikes down law banning sports betting outside Nevada
The Supreme Court has overturned a federal ban on sports gambling. States other than Nevada will be allowed to provide bookmaking and betting at casinos and race tracks. Justice Samuel Alito said Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, “each State is free to act on its own.” The vote was 6-3. One research firm estimates that 32 states will likely offer sports betting within five years.
Westcare Clinic Crucial to Las Vegan's Addiction Recovery
Christian Hunt, 21, was sent to Westcare in September after he ended up on drugs and in the hospital. If it weren't for the nonprofit's Community Triage Center, Hunt said he would still be using drugs. Instead, he's been sober for six months, and stopped using methamphetamines seven months ago. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Foundation Provides Full Rides for Clark County Students
Somewhere along the banks of the Ohio River in Owensboro, Kentucky, a group of students from Sin City are pursuing a higher education. Feature on the 38 Clark County students that the Rogers Foundation has given full rides to for Kentucky Wesleyan College. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Flames engulf house in Henderson
Clark County firefighters battled a house fire early Friday morning in Henderson. The house, located near Volunteer Boulevard and Executive Airport Drive, was fully engulfed in flames about 2 a.m. Shifting winds sent massive plumes of smoke across the southern Las Vegas Valley sky. As of 3 a.m. , the cause of the fire was not known and no injuries were reported.
Harvey Weinstein’s Estranged Wife Speaks Out for First Time
Harvey Weinstein’s Estranged Wife Speaks Out for First Time Georgina Chapman was profiled for 'Vogue’s' June issue, speaking on her estranged husband for the first time since he was accused of sexual assault in October. Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Chapman, who has two children with Weinstein, also said she has been seeing a therapist and that has helped her move forward. Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Read the full profile on Chapman in Vogue’s June issue or online at
Bark-Andre Furry the dog is a Vegas Golden Knights hockey fan
The furriest fan of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights is growing into a social media sensation. Bark-Andre Furry the Jack Russell terrier has thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspect Sought In Robbery Attempt
Attorney Gloria Allred on case against Benjamin Sparks
Attorney Gloria Allred is representing the victim in a "sex slave" case against GOP political consultant Benjamin Sparks.
2018 Las Vegas Review-Journal High School Journalism Awards winners
Some winners of the 2018 Las Vegas Review-Journal High School Journalism Awards receive their awards.
Weather Balloon Collects Key Data
Meteorologist Chelsea Kryston discusses the Las Vegas National Weather Service's balloon carrying a radiosonde that collects temperature, humidity and pressure readings.
'Avengers: Infinity War' to Cross $1 Billion Mark
'Avengers: Infinity War' to Cross $1 Billion Mark And it will have done so faster than any other film in history. The Anthony and Joe Russo directed film has only been in theaters for eight days since its Apr. 27 release, and it’s already raked in $905.1 million at the worldwide box office, including $338.4 million in North America. It will reach the milestone faster than ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ which took 12 days to cross over the $1 billion threshold. ‘Infinity War’ is the 34th film to cross $1 billion at the global box office, not accounting for inflation.
Henderson Residents Fighting Their HOA
Sun City Anthem residents Tim Stebbins and Bob Frank were arrested by the Henderson Police Department for filing a false report of a crime after they claimed their HOA was hiding surplus assessments in a secret slush fund. Nearly a decade later, Frank is still trying to clear his name. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like