LAS VEGAS -- The ratio of students to teachers in the Clark County School District from first through fifth grade and the ratio of students to classes in kindergarten gradually improved toward the end of the last decade but worsened after the 2009-2010 school year.
Data from Nevadareportcard.com, a website maintained by the Nevada Department of Education, shows that the school district averaged 23 students for every teacher in those grades in the 2011-2012 school year, same as in 2003-2004.
But the ratio was as favorable as 19 to one in 2009-2010, which also was the school year that registered the most favorable ratios at every level from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Translation: across the district there were 21 percent more elementary school students per teacher last school year than two years earlier, according to the data.
In 2011-2012, first graders enjoyed the most favorable student-teacher ratios (19 to 1), followed by second graders (20 to 1), third graders (22 to 1), and fourth and fifth graders (28 to 1 each). There were also 25 kindergarten students for each class.
Compared to 2009-2010, though, the ratios for first graders grew worse by nearly 19 percent. They also grew worse by 25 percent for kindergarten students and second graders, 22 percent for third graders, and 16.7 percent for fourth and fifth graders.
The ratios are also considerably above those prescribed in state law, which call for no more than 15 students per teacher in kindergarten through third grade. The Legislature, though, has failed to grant the district enough money to meet those ratios..
Louis Wiener Jr. Elementary School at 450 E. Eldorado Lane and Wendell P. Williams Elementary School at 1030 J St. were the only elementary schools in the Las Vegas Valley that had better overall student-teacher ratios than the district as a whole each school year from 2003-2004 through 2011-2012. Gene Ward Elementary School at 1555 E. Hacienda Ave. also did better than the district average each year from 2005-2006 through 2011-2012.
Lincoln Elementary School at 3010 Berg St. in North Las Vegas and Elise L. Wolff Elementary School at 1001 Seven Hills Drive in Henderson were the only valley elementary schools that had worse overall student-teacher ratios than the district average each year from 2003-2004 through 2011-2012. Marion Cahlan Elementary School at 2891 Ft Sumter Drive in North Las Vegas also did worse than the district average each year from 2004-2005 through 2011-2012.
District enrollment peaked during the 2008-2009 school year at 311,039, but stood at only 308,237 last school year, according to Nevadareportcard.com. One potential explanation is fallout from the severe recession, which resulted in double-digit unemployment in the Las Vegas metropolitan area and forced many Nevadans to look for work elsewhere.
At the same time, the number of teachers also declined as the recession played havoc with the district's budget. A district statistical data document shows that there were 19,402 licensed and non-licensed instructors in 2010-2011 but only 18,681 last school year. The budget for this school year provided funding for only 17,500 instructors, according to the same document. Much of the staffing decline was blamed on decreases in special revenues and federal projects funding.
All eyes have been focused on the Nevada Legislature to see whether lawmakers will take any action or take a pass on potential class size reduction. Two bills that address class-size reduction are Assembly Bill 162 and Senate Bill 481.
* AB 162, approved by the Assembly Education Committee on April 10 and forwarded to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, would increase required student-teacher ratios to 16 to one for kindergarten through second grade and 18 to 1 for third grade. The bill also would require districts that exceed those ratios in any quarter of a school year to obtain a variance for the next quarter from the State Board of Education.
* SB 481, which is in the Senate Finance Committee, would authorize school districts to increase class sizes by two students per teacher in the first through third grades for the next two years.