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Money is issue, school officials in Clark and Washoe counties say

CARSON CITY — "You can give us more money."

That was Clark County School District Associate Superintendent Joyce Haldeman’s succinct answer to legislators Monday who questioned why schools can’t provide the additional classes needed by credit-deficient students.

Haldeman and Craig Hulse, a lobbyist for the Washoe County School District, gave a thumbs down to Assembly Bill 138, which would require school districts to give struggling students more chances to pick up the credits they need.

The bill also requires schools to provide a way for students to anonymously report any "unlawful activity" they see.

No one testified in favor of the entire bill and no vote was taken following a hearing before the Assembly Education Committee. The 24-page bill was prepared by an interim committee on education.

"We have to put this one back in the oven," said Chairman David Bobzien, D-Reno, following the hearing.

What generated the most controversy was a short section in the bill that called for schools to offer "sufficient opportunities" during the school day for students to pick up needed credits.

Both Haldeman and Hulse, however, said districts already provide such opportunities and would need more money to do more.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed a cut of $211 million, or 9 percent, to state support for public education. That includes reducing the state’s per pupil spending to $4,918, down $470.

"If you are a couple of credits short, you are already taking a full load," said Haldeman, explaining that students in that situation would have to pick up credits before or after the school day.

"There is a cost to that," Haldeman said.

The least expensive way for students to make up classes is during summer vacation, but students are reluctant to go to school in the summer, she said.

"Student willingness has to be part of the equation," she added. "We cannot force-feed credits opportunities."

"Credit retrieval" is an important consideration for Clark County schools, Haldeman said. She said the district has proposed a bill to change a law that generally prevents students from advancing to the next grade if they are absent 10 or more days. There are exceptions to the law if schools have approved the absences and students make up their school work.

American Civil Liberties Union lobbyist Dane Claussen took exception to a section in AB138 that would require school districts to set up ways that students could anonymously report the unlawful behavior they see in school.

Claussen said the proposal violates the accused students’ constitutional rights of due process.

Haldeman and Hulse said their districts already provide students with ways to anonymously report suspicious or illegal activity.

Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, also stressed that anonymous ways for students to report information are necessary or they could face retaliation.

"A level of protection needs to be there," Neal said. "There is nothing normal about high school or middle school. It is pretty nuts."

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, added there is a "difference between a tipster and actually filing a complaint" against someone suspected of illegal behavior.

Other witnesses, including state Superintendent of Public Instruction Keith Rheault, said other sections of the bill — particularly parts about ensuring that high school standards are aligned with college and workplace readiness expectations — already have been approved by the state Board of Education.

Contact reporter Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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