By Don Dike Anukam
Nevada State Senate Republicans announced on Saturday their plan to enhance education funding for the next two years. The Republicans are arguing that after the majority of the session has now passed, their Democratic counterparts could make use of projected $250 million of general fund dollars they have identified fund.
Senate Republicans argue that these funds “can be directed into classrooms and invested in students, all while allowing the slated reduction in taxes to roughly 22,000 Nevada businesses.”
Here is what they are proposing:
“On School Safety: Nevadans were shocked earlier this month when the Democrats voted on party lines to cut $30 million from Governor Sisolak’s proposed investment in protecting our children. We support restoring this funding and fulfilling our pledge to keep our children safe in school.
On Teacher Raises: We support adding $107 million to the Distribute School Account to help fulfil Governor Sisolak’s pledge of a teacher pay raise. This increase is consistent with the analysis of the non-partisan Guinn Center for Policy Priorities regarding the money needed to fully fund the raises. While the Governor maintains he covered these costs in his budget, it’s clear to the Senate Republicans that additional money is needed to fulfill his promise. We believe this additional funding will ensure teachers get the raise they deserve.
On Class Size Reduction: Senate Republicans support reducing class sizes in the upper grades to make an immediate improvement for children and alleviate the crushing workload facing our teachers. We propose a line-item increase to class size reduction of $100 million to help school districts strategically cut class sizes. This funding would put roughly 865 additional teachers in the classroom next year, and sustain them over the biennium, directly and immediately impacting students.
On Opportunity Scholarships: Senate Republicans continue to support Nevada’s low income families who seek a school that better fits their child’s needs. Additional funding, including the remaining amounts already identified, should be directed to the Opportunity Scholarship program to ensure no children are forced back into an underperforming school due to a lack of resources dedicated to this program.”
At the moment, there is a question of how much extra money is left over to be spent or put into other areas for funding. There is speculation from a number of members of the Republican and Democratic caucuses of a range between $207 million and $384 million.
Education funding also has spurred some private questions about the budget negotiation process among all parties.
On Saturday, the focus in Senate Finance Committee ranged from fireworks to drones. Some Republican Senators and staff seemed to be a point of annoyance and concern with a final spending package yet to pass with less than nine days remaining in the session.
Nevada State Senator Joe Hardy (R-Clark County) said: “It’s hard not to be involved in the process, even when you are not in the process… We are impacting the process in our own way…”
When asked on the possibility of a single GOP caucus member voting for a possible budget to aid in giving a two-thirds majority for passage, Hardy said, “Yes they need one of us, [and] with eight of us we are a team of eight, and we act as one.”