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Sandoval signs education bills, lauds lawmakers

Gov. Brian Sandoval today visited elementary schools in Las Vegas to sign a trio of education-reform bills passed in the recently concluded special session, telling kids and school officials that “it’s a new day for every one of our children.”

At Lucille S. Rogers Elementary School in southwest Las Vegas, Sandoval told an Assembly of kids on an outside playground that Senate Bill 391, the so-called Read by Three law, would have a direct impact on them.

“Today is a really big day, not just for you, but for every child across our state,” Sandoval said. “Every child, every single one of you, will be reading by the time you get to third grade.”

The $27.2 million program will establish grants that regular and charter schools can apply for, which will require literacy improvement plans and accountability measures. Specialists will help teachers with students who need extra attention, and plans to monitor individual student progress will be developed.

Sandoval gave credit to assembled lawmakers, including state Sen. Becky Harris, R-Las Vegas, the chairwoman of the Senate’s Education Committee and one of the primary sponsors of the bill, as well as Assemblymen Paul Anderson and David Gardner, both R-Las Vegas, and Derek Armstrong and Stephen Silberkraus, both R-Henderson. All attended the bill signing.

“It wasn’t easy to get here today,” Sandoval said. “It took some courage on the part of legislators in Carson City.”

Lawmakers not only approved the popular Read by Three bill (SB 391 passed the state Senate unanimously and had only four dissenting votes in the Assembly) but also a tax package to fund a series of education reforms that may prove to be politically perilous.

Asked if the education reforms he’s signing would actually improve schools in the Silver State, Sandoval didn’t hesitate: “There’s no doubt in my mind.” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga said the same. “Just the three programs [being signed into law] today are going to make a difference,” Erquiaga said. “I think if we look at school data over the next two years, we will see gains.”

“This is the right policy,” Harris said. “We have diligently worked as a legislature to ensure that we have all the tools in place.”

In addition to SB 391, Sandoval was also scheduled to sign two other reform bills Wednesday.

Senate Bill 405 calls for spending $50 million to expand the number of Zoom schools, which get extra resources to help students for whom English is a second language. Zoom schools must provide free pre-kindergarten programs, full-day kindergarten, reading skills centers, training for teachers, special incentives to attract teachers and parental involvement programs.

Senate Bill 432 would spend $50 million on Victory schools, which the state Education Department has identified as the lowest-performing schools in the highest-poverty areas in the state. School districts would be required to provide detailed plans to help students read at grade level and preparing students for high-school curriculum. Victory schools will have free pre-kindergarten programs, free summer school, teacher incentives and training, reading skills centers, school-based health care and parent-involvement programs.

The bills are part of an aggressive education agenda that Sandoval outlined in his State of the State speech in January.

In other news, Sandoval said he would also sign Gardner’s Assembly Bill 394, which calls for breaking up the Clark County School District into five smaller school precincts. The bill spent almost the entire Legislature in the Assembly, until it was passed on the final day and quickly introduced and voted upon in the state Senate, over the vocal objections of Democrats. But Sandoval called it “good legislation” and said he’d approve it.

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