CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval announced Monday that he wants to spend $25 million more than he previously proposed on K-12 education in the next biennium.
The funding will be directed to programs to help English language learners and to expand all-day kindergarten. It will bring the total new commitment to the two priorities in Sandoval’s recommended budget to nearly $60 million.
“Education has long been a priority of mine, and these new funds will assist school districts across our great state from the largest to the smallest,” Sandoval said. “Prioritizing funds towards ELL will target the most at-risk students in our state while additional funding will allow for a manageable infrastructure expansion of all-day-K.”
In the budget amendment to be submitted this week by the state Budget Office, Sandoval will put an additional $10 million toward all-day kindergarten, expanding the program to about 32 additional schools across the state. The amendment will aim an additional $15 million toward English language learners, essentially doubling the state’s investment.
The increased funds are the result of lower-than-projected employee medical costs in the main state public education budget, lower than projected Medicaid caseloads and a higher-than-projected match from the federal government to pay Medicaid costs.
Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, said the additional funding is a good start but far short of what is needed to properly fund public education in the upcoming two-year budget.
“It’s a very good step in the right direction. We just need to keep finding some more because both of those programs plus class-size reduction needed to be funded at the level that is going to help our children,” she said.
Woodhouse said Democrats estimate that about $300 million more than what the governor has proposed in his budget is needed for the three programs. Class-size reduction is not funded at the kindergarten level now, and those class sizes are a concern with as many as 30 students per teacher, she said.
“We don’t have enough in there to do what is important to be done,” Woodhouse said.
The additional funding was welcomed as “worthy investments” by officials for Clark County School District, where full-day kindergarten and increased English fluency are priorities.
“It’s important to note these programs are most helpful for our students and their success in our community when they are continually funded by a long-term stable source,” district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said. “We continue to focus our resources on lowering class sizes, ELL programs, and full-day kindergarten as studies show these areas greatly impact the long-term success of our students as they grow into productive community members.”
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said the announcement shows that Sandoval is making public education funding his top priority.
Whether it’s enough still needs to be determined, Kieckhefer said.
“But I think the governor has clearly identified his priorities, and he’s putting his money where his mouth is at this point.”
Most lawmakers agree that focusing on early education is important, and addressing kindergarten and English language learners is critical to improve student achievement in the long run, Kieckhefer said.
Sandoval’s announcement comes as the Senate Education Committee is set to take up five education bills Thursday.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-687-3900.