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Legislative Memo

NSEA Opposes SB439 – Not the Fix Nevada Needs

Senate Bill 439, trailing legislation for Senate Bill 543, was introduced on the 99th Day of the 81st Legislation Session and is not the fix Nevada needs.
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Published: 05/10/2021

Two years ago, SB543 was developed behind closed doors, wasn’t introduced until the 99th day of the session, and had but a single public hearing with the bill passing minutes before Sine Die. Today, on the 99th day of this session, SB439 was introduced with less fanfare, but it was also developed behind closed doors, without even a preview of its content.

The new funding plan will fail, because it was never built to succeed.

Ever since the introduction of SB543 two years ago, NSEA has expressed policy concerns at every opportunity—the lack of educator voice; no new revenue; watering down Zoom and Victory schools; freezing and squeezing school district budgets; a giveaway to charter schools; and undoing the rules of collective bargaining.

SB439 fails to address a single issue raised by educators, showing its backers to be unserious about delivering a funding plan to benefit all Nevada students.

Nevada ranks 48th among states in education funding, yet the new funding plan includes no new funding. While the Funding Commission has recommended a 10-year plan for Nevada to increase education funding by $2B per year, SB439, the supposed fix to 543, completely ignores these recommendations. Meanwhile, SB439 further moves Nevada backward by proposing to strike language in the NRS that references merit salary increases and cost of living adjustments.

If the Legislature is intent on moving forward with the implementation of the new funding formula, NSEA recommends making three changes to ensure the new plan does significantly less harm to Nevada’s students and educators.

  1. First, grandfather existing Zoom and Victory Schools, located in Nevada’s poorest communities, serving the highest percentage of at-risk students, and proven models of education equity.
  2. Second, hold districts truly harmless by using the greater of 2020 total budget or per-pupil amount by district, adjusted by the inflationary costs of doing business.
  3. Finally, remove anti-union language that increases the district ending fund balance walled off from collective bargaining to 16.6%, to preserve the collective bargaining process.

Please listen to educators. Any trailing legislation that does not bring new revenue or address these serious policy concerns is doomed to fail Nevada educators and students.

Member Testimony: Susan Kaiser

For the record, my name is Susan Kaiser and I am making public comment today to ask for your support to really fix SB543 and support AJR1.

Tax abatements as incentives for companies have been on autopilot since The Great Recession. Those decisions brought some diversity to our economy, but it was not without a cost. School funding took an even bigger hit with IP1 monies for education, voted on and passed by the people, supplanted to pay for other state programs. Since that time, actions to increase funding for education have been rebuffed with the exception of the commerce tax for categorical education funding. As an educator lobbyist for almost 20 years, legislators have told me that “we are broke” or that “it is up to leadership.” In short, they pass the buck.

The evidence is mounting that poor funding of Nevada public schools has impacts on our economy. The Funding Commission reported recently that Nevada education funding must be adequate to meet the future needs of the Nevada economy and defined adequate as reaching the national average. Yet, on education lobby day only 2 weeks ago few legislators took the NSEA pledge to meet that goal. I want to thank Assemblymembers Anderson, Jauregui and Watts for their signatures.

Whether you are a Legislator in your first term or in your last, you are serving today. You are serving the citizens of the state of Nevada in this exceptional moment. It is on your collective shoulders to look at funding solutions for education into the future beyond the gift of the Rescue Money from Uncle Sam. To quote Mike Kasmierski, President and CEO of EDAWN, “Washington cannot fix our antiquated tax system, one that has contributed to education funding’s longstanding decline.”

Wyoming has figured out how to tax their minerals such that their schools are funded at 10th in the nation while in Nevada our schools are funded at 48th. That is simply not good enough for our kids. Please really fix SB543 and support AJR1.

Member Testimony, Carmen Andrews

My name is Carmen Andrews and I’m a high school Spanish teacher in the CCSD and the Vice President of NEA of Southern Nevada. I have come to accept that Nevada just doesn’t care about education.

How does that make you feel when I say that when you are the ones in charge of funding education?

You should feel terrible. I feel terrible. My colleagues feel terrible. We’re exhausted. I’m exhausted from begging this state for money to support education for the last two and a half decades. Teachers are exhausted from having the largest average class sizes in the nation. Support professionals are exhausted from being under-paid and overstretched. Students are tired of not having textbooks and not getting their fair share of a teacher’s time. Educators are tired of spending our own money in classrooms to bridge the gap between actual funding and actual need. I’m tired of mincing words. Quit patronizing us and pretending that you care. Decades of words that say you support education at this point mean nothing. Absolutely nothing - actions speak louder than words. Stop pretending that you care. Stop making excuses. Stop protecting corporations. It’s time to show us you care. Tax the mines. Fund education. Just get it done.

Member Testimony: Kristin Prostinak,

 

Hello my name is Kristin Prostinak, I’m a Graduate student from UNR and I’m apart of the NSEA Grassroots Taskforce. 

A long long time ago teachers were allowed to strike when things were not right in the Education realm. A convening was held and a deal was struck. Teachers would give up their right to strike in return for collective bargaining. It is foretold that in the future if SB543 isn’t fixed by the Legislature that teachers will lose their collective bargaining due to the arbitrary walling off of end balance funds. If this happens what is to stop them from going to the Dark side? 

Please remove this language and keep educators on the Jedi side. 

Member Testimony: Selena La Rue Hatch

I am a teacher and member of NSEA and WEA and I am imploring you to make some critical adjustments to the new Student-centered funding plan prior to full implementation. Under the current plan, almost all districts across the state (including my own) will be frozen at our current budgets for years to come. With the rising costs of living and inflation in my area, you are essentially cutting our budget for the foreseeable future. How is it that you think implementing a new funding plan without any new funding is going to work?

This is incredibly and willfully harmful to our children. As it stands right now I am set to have class sizes of 40 or more next year. That equates to just 6 minutes of instructional time per student per week.  And sadly, that is the norm for classrooms across Nevada. Most teachers in my school and district have this issue and we are certainly not alone. My Geography textbooks list 9/11 as a current event and we have to draw in the borders of countries that did not exist in 2002 when it was printed. My World History textbook talks about “this new thing called the internet.” How are we supposed to teach when our classrooms are overcrowded and our materials are out of date? And your proposal is not to fix these issues, but make them worse?

I think you will hear from the calls tonight that educators are frustrated. We are frustrated because we continue to be shut entirely out of a process which will directly impact the quality of education we can provide to your students. For years now we have sent letters, called in for public comment, physically protested,  and had one-on-one conversations with our elected leaders and ALL of it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. You have ignored every request we have made to help make the new funding plan work. Why are you so intent on ignoring and alienating your educators? You must understand that every person has a breaking point and educators are reaching ours. Continue to ignore us at your peril.

And why push us to that extreme? All of this pain can be easily avoided if you would just listen to educators for once! There are simple fixes to 543 which could bring all parties to the table and perhaps even positively impact education in Nevada. We are asking for 3 simple changes:

  1. Grandfather in Zoom and Victory Schools under the new model.
  2. Adjust the hold harmless to account for increasing student enrollment and cost of doing business, and
  3. Delete the anti-union ending fund balance language that allows districts to wall off up to 16.6% of their operating budget from collective bargaining.

Please, for the sake of our students, listen to educators and enact these simple fixes to the plan.

Alexander Marks, Nevada State Education Association

NSEA has participated in all 22 meetings of the Funding Commission. Chair McCormick even pointed out that NSEA has been nothing if not consistent about our opposition to Senate Bill 543. Unfortunately, despite our presence at all 22 meetings, active educators had no seat on the Commission and were shut out of the process with none of our concerns substantively addressed. 

For 2 years, educators have rallied outside of this building, calling on our leaders to be brave, and be bold. We began in 2019 under the banner Red for Ed — red symbolizing the financial hardships and struggles of our educators as well as our public schools. We end 2021 under the banner Red for Revenue because that is what is needed. We can build a bank, discuss how large the vault should be, but if it’s empty, what did we really build? The approach this state has taken has resulted in Nevada being 48th in the nation in education spending and 50th in their overall “Chance for Success” index per 2021 Quality Counts Report. SB543 and SB439 will not change that issue. 

Unfortunately, despite the 4 rallies, the testimony in every hearing with a microphone turned on, the thousands of emails (including over 300 just in the last day given the short notice of this hearing), engagement at 22 funding commission meetings, SB439 ignores the demands of teachers, education support professionals, other licensed professionals, parents, and community allies by failing to address a single issue raised in the last 2 years. 

NSEA has been urging you all to listen to educators for 100 days.

  • We have asked for this bill to be fully funded; 
  • We have asked for an educator to be included on the Commission;
  • We have asked for zoom and victory schools to be grandfathered;
  • We have asked for a true hold harmless to prevent a freeze and squeeze;
  • We have asked to remove the anti-union ending fund balance provision.

In every single instance, nothing. Please know that our opposition comes from a good place, as we are trying to make this plan work for all Nevada students and educators whose stories we hear every single day. We need a plan that works for all of us. As it stands, SB439 fails in that effort.  It is not too late to listen to educators.

Chris Daly, Nevada State Education Association

Two years ago, SB543 was developed behind closed doors, wasn’t introduced until the 99th day of the session, had but a single public hearing, and passed minutes before Sine Die. In my 30 years doing this type of work, SB543 was one of the least transparent and least inclusive legislative efforts I’ve seen.

But don’t just take my word for it. When asked for their perspective on the process that produced SB543, legislators who actually voted for the bill had this to say...

“Unfortunately, the late introduction of SB543 produced a process that legislators and stakeholders felt was not sufficiently transparent and inclusive.”

“I voted for it although it had some language that I thought would be problematic in its implementation.”

“I would have liked to have seen greater discussion of the bill earlier in the session. It is a significant piece of legislation that impacts the entire state. We have been discussing changes to the funding formula for some time, so a more inclusive discussion of the bill would have been helpful.”

“While I voted for SB543, I had (and still have) some serious concerns about the methodology that underlies the budget formula. Regarding the legislative process, whenever possible I believe that policy matters should be heard by policy committees before they are brought to the money committees.”

Nevada deserves a significantly more inclusive and transparent process on such a major policy shift, and we were promised our voices would be heard this session. Yet here we are with SB439, developed behind closed doors with no stakeholder input or even a preview of its content, introduced on the 99th day of the session with its first hearing only a day later. So it should come as no surprise the three simple fixes requested by educators are nowhere to be found in this bill.

  1. Grandfather existing Zoom and Victory Schools.
  2. Hold districts truly harmless by using the greater of 2020 total budget or per-pupil amount by district, adjusted by the inflationary costs of doing business.
  3. Remove anti-union ending fund balance language.

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NSEA has been the voice of educators for over 120 years. We represent teachers, education support professionals, and other licensed professionals throughout the state of Nevada.