Assembly Speaker Says Governor’s Education Reform Plan Not Likely to Get Hearing in Special Session

(Updated at 2:37 p.m. on Feb. 26, 2010)

CARSON CITY – Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley said “probably not” when asked this morning if the Legislature will have the time to consider education reform and the other measures included in Gov. Jim Gibbons proclamation for the special session now entering its fourth day.

Gibbons on Wednesday amended the proclamation to include a number of issues he had previously asked the Legislature to consider at the special session, including amendments to the state’s collective bargaining law, a school voucher, or scholarship, program and elimination of the state mandates for smaller class sizes in the lower elementary grades of the public schools.

Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns said the governor would be disappointed if the Legislature did not make an effort to take up at least some of the proposals included in the proclamation.

“The governor would like to see some effort by the Legislature to consider all of the education reform measures,” Burns said. “But he would like to see at least some effort to consider some of the proposals he has made, to have the Legislature show they have some level of interest in modernizing the system of public education in this state.”

Burns acknowledged that Gibbons has called on the Legislature to finish its work by the end of the day Sunday. But the pace of the Legislature up to now, described by some as “glacial,” already has afforded some time to consider education reform, he said.

“We’re in the fourth day,” Burns said. “How many bills have come to the governor’s office?”

Gibbons still has not received the bill to change Nevada law to allow the state to compete for federal Race to the Top funds, passed by the Legislature on Wednesday, he said.

While pleased that lawmakers are now picking up the pace, and that lawmakers are actively working on solutions to the $900 million budget shortfall, Gibbons will be surprised and disappointed if the Legislature can’t take the time to consider one single idea to improve education, Burns said.

“All we’re asking for is a fair shake,” he said. “The governor has said he will bring the issue up again.”

While hearings on education reform do not appear likely, the Assembly today did introduce a bill to allow for the temporary increase in class sizes in the next school year to deal with the impending public school budget cuts.

Assembly Bill 4 would allow school districts to add two students to class sizes in grades 1, 2 and 3. Those classes are now limited to 16 students per teacher in grades 1 and 2 and 19 students in grade 3.

Joyce Haldeman, representing the Clark County School District, supported the bill, saying the addition of two pupils to the classes in these three grades would save the district $30 million next school year.

Gibbons wanted the class-size mandate permanently repealed.

Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, said he believes the measures should be given some attention, even though lawmakers are under pressure to balance the budget and adjourn as soon as possible.

“We owe any governor the courtesy to at least look at these,” he said.

The two houses could divide the proposals to speed the process up, Hambrick said.

“Give him a chance in the batter’s box,” he said.

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