It’s no secret K-12 public education has been woefully underfunded in Nevada, ranking 48th among states in per-pupil funding. Our diverse student population, including significant numbers of English Learners and at-risk students, and the largest student-to-teacher ratio in the country compels Nevada to do better than 48. NSEA acknowledges action taken by the legislature to restore $503M in lost funding to Nevada’s K-12 budget, however, we are concerned the total per-pupil funding level actually decreases by $115 from FY21 to FY22.
Last month, the Commission on School Funding issued their preliminary recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature regarding optimal and adequate funding. In order to reach adequate fund levels, Nevada needs to add $2B per year to K-12 education by 2030. This would require an increase of $200M in each year or $600M per biennium over the next 10 years. The action taken by the budget committees was significant; however, even greater work will be required moving forward to meet this goal.
SB458 is the first K-12 budget under the new school funding formula. NSEA has expressed numerous concerns about the new funding plan, including shortcomings of hold harmless provisions. While SB458 adjusts the hold harmless for growth in student enrollment, 9 Nevada school districts will still be impacted by increases in the cost of doing business. Inflation in utilities, healthcare, and other fixed costs will have a squeezing effect on these school district budgets, effectively cutting these district budgets in inflation-adjusted dollars. While it has been pointed out this only impacts 7% of Nevada students, the state is responsible to provide sufficient funding to educate every Nevada student. If a classroom teacher left 7% of their students behind, they would be rated “ineffective”.
Finally, the new funding plan transfers Zoom and Victory funding from these model equity programs to weights in the new funding formula. SB458 sets these weights at 0.24 for English Learners, 0.12 for gifted and talented, and .03 for at-risk pupils. The anemic weight for at-risk will provide only $209 additional dollars per student. This is not nearly enough money to serve students with Victory services outlined in SB543: prekindergarten, a summer academy, additional instruction, professional development for educators, hiring incentives, employment of additional support personnel, a reading skills center, and integrated student supports and wrap-around services.
Zoom and Victory schools are located in Nevada’s most impacted, highest-poverty communities. They have the highest concentrations of students in poverty and English Learners. Zoom and Victory resources and services are concentrated and have a multiplier effect for students and communities who need them most. And they’ve been proven effective. SB458 effectively kills these model programs and is a significant step backward on education equity.