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Nevada Gov. Signs Bill to Fund English-Learner Programs

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed legislation that will, for the first time in the state's history, provide funds specifically for students who are English-language learners.

It's a notable turn of events in Nevada, which is one of just a small handful of states that did not provide targeted funding to pay for the education of ELLs, something that educators and advocates have been seeking for years as the population of English-learners grew exponentially. The ELL-rich districts that will benefit most are Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, and Washoe County, where Reno is located.

Nevada in the last 10 to 15 years saw explosive growth in its ELL population—much of it driven by immigration from Mexico—which now stands at more than 20 percent of the state's K-12 enrollment. That percentage is projected to grow even more. And with one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the nation (the ELL grad rate is just 29 percent) and an economy that was among the hardest hit by the recent recession, Nevada had compelling demographic and economic reasons to start providing additional funds to its ELL students.

Sandoval, a Republican, first proposed a fiscal 2014 state budget with a modest ELL funding stream of $14 million, but revised it upward to $50 million. The governor publicly pushed for lawmakers to approve state funding for ELLs, which in previous go-rounds got caught up in partisan debates about immigration.

He tweeted recently that "ELL students face challenges wholly different than their peers. Our obligation is no less important. Proud to be 1st #nvgov to fund ELL.-BES."

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