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State to give $100 million to schools

Geoff Dornan

The Governor’s Commission on Educational Excellence began a weeklong process Tuesday that will result in grants totaling $100 million to Nevada schools.

The grants program proposed by Gov. Kenny Guinn is designed to put money into creative, innovative programs to improve learning in the state’s schools. Lawmakers approved the proposal but mandated at least $22 million of the money to go to full-day kindergarten projects.

Superintendent of Education Keith Rheault said nine panels, each with one member of the commission and three education professionals from schools that have already implemented improvement projects, will spend the week examining 561 grant applications from all 17 Nevada school districts as well as individual schools.

“I was surprised we did get probably 95 percent of the schools which are eligible to apply,” said Rheault.

The programs range from reading-improvement to science-education to English-as-a-second-language programs.

The grant applications range from more than $2 million sought by Spring Valley High in Clark County to $1,155 requested by Duck Valley Elementary in Nye County and the $3,098 Gerlach High in northern Washoe County is seeking.

Carson City’s school district and individual schools applied for 10 grants totaling $3.23 million and Douglas schools for $2.4 million in 13 grants.

Rapidly growing Lyon County sent in 17 grants totaling $4 million and Churchill County School District nine grants totaling $1.4 million. Tiny Storey County School District applied for $731,943 in five grant applications.

“To me, this is one of the most important things we’ve been able to accomplish for education,” Guinn told the group Tuesday morning.

With applications totaling more than $150 million, he and Rheault said the teams will have to whittle the applications to fit the budget.

The grants, under terms of the legislation appropriating the money, are supposed to be awarded based on the merit of the project.

“It’s all on merit,” said commission Chairwoman George Ann Rice. “It’s all on the quality of their program.”

“You’re going to have to pick out the best programs, hopefully the ones that can be used as a model,” Guinn told the group.

Guinn added that he wouldn’t be surprised if they put up to $50 million of the money into full-day kindergarten projects – a move he has supported in two consecutive legislative sessions.

He told them the job doesn’t end after they award the money.

“The pressure will build to have some achievement,” he said.

Success, he said, will convince the 2007 Legislature to continue funding for the commission.

The teams will each work through the applications assigned to them and, Friday, will present recommendations to the commission. It will be up to that body to make the final judgment calls and trim the list of recommended projects to fit the budget.

The Legislature appropriated $78 million for elementary education this biennium and $13.9 million for secondary schools to apply for.

About two-thirds of the applications are from Clark County and a good portion of the remainder from Washoe which, between them, have more than 90 percent of Nevada’s population.

Grant applications

Douglas County School District $610,400

Carson Valley MS $ 55,015

Douglas High $126,309

Pa-Wa-Lu MS $ 81,293

Whittell High $ 96,000

Gardnerville Elem $266,240

Jacks Valley Elem $228,800

Meneley Elem. $226,304

Minden Elem. $192,608

Piñon Hills Elem. $200,928

Scarselli Elem. $219,074

Zephyr Cove Elem $ 96,512

Kingsbury MS $ 34,138

Total $2,433,621


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