weather icon Partly Cloudy

$2 million Teach America bill gets Finance Committee backing

CARSON CITY — A proposal to earmark $2 million for a nonprofit group to recruit teachers for at-risk schools in Clark County won the endorsement Tuesday of the Senate Finance Committee.

The committee approved Senate Bill 517, sending the bill pushed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to the Senate floor before it heads to the Assembly with less than a week to go in the 2013 legislative session.

In his $6.5 billion general fund budget proposal, Sandoval included $1 million in each of the next two years for Teach for America, a national nonprofit group that recruits recent college graduates and professionals for hard-to-fill positions at urban and rural schools for two years.

The measure ran into opposition from some Democrats, who opposed earmarking money for a particular group. They also questioned taking money from the overall public school budget and argued that the state should invest more in permanent teachers who want to remain in Nevada, rather than just fulfill a short-stint obligation.

As a result, the proposal was taken from the budget and debated as a separate bill.

Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson and a retired teacher, voted for the bill but voiced concerns Tuesday about spending money on teachers who will likely leave after two years.

“I think it’s concerning because these young people are not staying here and are moving on,” she said.

Clark County School District officials, who have been involved with the program since 2004, praised the Teach for America program, saying it reduces the district’s recruitment costs and helps vet qualified teachers for positions at the most at-risk schools.

Joyce Haldeman, associate superintendent with the Clark County district, said many people recruited for the jobs stay on afterward.

“They have a tendency to stay there,” she told the committee in testimony on Monday.

Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said the program puts high priority on professional development, something Nevada should strive for as the economy recovers.

“I think this is a solid investment for us,” Smith said.

Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, agreed.

“When they sign up for this, they sign up to come and work in these schools,” Denis said.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.