LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Gov. Joe Lombardo’s plan to spend an additional $2 billion on education drew an unexpected response from state education officials — raising class-size limits for Nevada’s youngest students.

Revisions will actually increase the student-to-teacher ratios in Kindergarten through third grade under the terms of Assembly Bill 42 (AB42). The proposed adjustments are as follows:

  • Kindergarten: Currently 16:1. Proposed 18:1.
  • Grades 1-2: Currently 16:1. Proposed 20:1.
  • Grade 3: Currently 18:1. Proposed 20:1.
  • No changes were proposed for grades 4-6 (25:1) and grades 7-12 (30:1).
Nevada State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert.

Why would the goal be to increase class sizes? State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert explained that focusing on the 16:1 ratio was actually taking too much focus off solving the problems in classrooms that are way above the current limits.

During a Tuesday hearing in Carson City, Ebert said some classes that have a target of a 16:1 ratio are actually as high as 27:1.

“What we’re trying to do as a department is really focus in on those classrooms that are farthest away from that target as opposed to those that are currently closer,” Ebert said.

First-term Assemblywoman Angie Taylor said it gives schools an “out” — she believes the goal should be in the other direction. Taylor, a Washoe County Democrat, is vice chairwoman of the committee.

“I’m still having a hard time with raising the basement,” Taylor said.

Assemblywoman Angie Taylor (D-Washoe County).

During public comment, the Clark County Education Association and the Nevada State Education Association also objected to the increases in class sizes.

The reality of the class size targets are that they just aren’t being met. Ebert said only one county — Esmeralda, the state’s least-populous county — hasn’t filed for an exception at any of its schools. The other counties are struggling to meet the goals.

Assemblywoman Selena La Rue Hatch (R-Reno) questioned whether the AB42 revisions would bring any real changes, or just more paperwork for the same classroom situations. Ebert answered that she wasn’t aware of a single case when a variance from class sizes was not granted during her four-year tenure leading the Nevada Department of Education. But the funding should begin to eliminate the widespread exceptions that are granted every year, according to Ebert’s testimony.

Ebert said schools have a selection of four reasons they can cite in applying for a variance from the class-size limit: a lack of funding, a lack of qualified teachers, a limit on classroom facilities, or “other.”

Another important revision discussed Monday involved counting class sizes in charter schools. About 15% of all students in Nevada are now in charter schools or other schools outside the public school system.

AB42 also cuts in half the number of times schools have to report their class sizes each year — from four times a year to two times a year.