- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Fresh off a legislative session that brought victories for his policy agenda and $1.1 billion tax plan, Gov. Brian Sandoval visited Las Vegas schools Wednesday to sign bills aimed at turning around Nevada’s dismally ranked public education system.

The measures creating the Read by 3 and Victory Schools initiatives and expanding the Zoom Schools program were just a fraction of an education package lawmakers finalized Monday that includes expanding full-day kindergarten statewide and allowing parents to use public money at private schools through “education savings accounts.”

“Any one or two of them would’ve been monumental by themselves in a single session,” Sandoval said about the measures. “I am absolutely convinced that these will make a difference in the lives of children.”

The Republican governor stopped at Rogers Elementary School to sign SB391, which creates a $27 million Read by 3 initiative that will provide extra literacy support for students. After four years, schools will be required to hold children back if they’re unable to read by third grade.

The money will fund grants so districts can hire literacy specialists, buy educational software or offer professional development to teachers.

He also visited Tom Williams Elementary School to sign SB405, which will double the state’s investment in the Zoom School program that provides extra resources to schools with a high number of English language learners. The current budget applies $50 million to the program, while the upcoming two-year budget allocates $100 million and expands beyond younger students to middle school and high school students.

Nevada has about 76,000 English language learners, up from 71,000 a year ago.

Sandoval held a ceremony at Matt Kelly Elementary to sign SB432, which creates the Victory Schools program to offer extra funding to Nevada’s 20 poorest ZIP codes. State superintendent Dale Erquiaga estimated that 30-35 schools in Clark, Washoe, Humboldt, Elko and Nye counties would participate, many of which have high populations of minority and rural poor students.

Erquiaga said the Zoom School and Victory School initiatives will help the state collect data that will be used to create a weighted education funding formula. When that’s developed, schools will get additional funding for students depending on whether they’re enrolled in special education, are learning English or are living in poverty.

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