Nevada lawmakers have approved several major education initiatives championed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, including a measure that would expand literacy programs and hold back children who can’t read by third grade.
Assembly members voted 38-4 to approve SB391 on Thursday, which would enact a so-called “Read by 3” initiative to help students reach a minimum level of reading ability by the time they leave third grade. Sandoval’s budget proposes $27 million for the effort.
Lawmakers also approved bills Thursday creating a professional development program for teachers and administrators, and expanding a school breakfast program.
Supporters said the measures would support many of the state’s struggling schools and help turn around Nevada’s historically low education ranking. The programs are part of Sandoval’s plan to dramatically overhaul K-12 education in the state and are closely tied to his effort to raise $1.1 billion in new or extended taxes over the next two years.
“This is about the entire state making an investment in our kids,” Democratic Assembly leader Marilyn Kirkpatrick said.
SB391 requires schools in the state to set up literacy programs to ensure that all children can read at an adequate level before entering fourth grade. It carves out several exemptions, including some for English language learners.
The measure requires schools to track and report to the state the number of students held back, It delays the strict retention provisions until 2019.
Assembly members also voted 33-9 to approve SB474, which establishes the professional development program. The proposed budget calls for putting $10 million into the effort.
The Assembly also voted 28-14 to approve SB504, which allocates $2 million to help more schools with low-income students implement breakfast programs during class time. Some Republican opponents argued that the program will take up valuable teaching time and asked whether it would duplicate efforts taking place at local districts.
Several Republicans voted against the measures and said they were concerned with approving spending before the Legislature arrives at a final tax plan. Republican Assemblyman Brent Jones voted against all three bills, saying that he agreed with the policies but the measures created a fiscal obligation he didn’t agree with.
“We should know how much money we’re willing to spend as a body before we start approving appropriations,” he said.
Members of an Assembly money committee voted unanimously to allocate $27.2 million to the governor’s “Read by 3” literacy initiative earlier in May. State officials said about 145 schools would be participating in the Read by 3 grant program by its second year.