It’s only Day 2 of the Legislative Session, yet there’s already been a great deal of focus on education. With the adoption of the new funding formula, a significant amount of Nevada’s new revenue is being captured in the education fund. While this is good news, it’s important to note the severity of issues in public schools caused by chronic underfunding, as well as the work that remains to reach optimal funding.
This is why NSEA has been saying it’s Time for 20. Time for 20 means a 20% raise for every Nevada educator, a $20/hour minimum wage in our schools, and average class sizes of 20 students.
Since the COVID pandemic, educators left their jobs in record numbers due to low pay and severely low morale. At the mid-point of this school year, there are still thousands of school vacancies, with many more positions being covered by long-term substitutes or, in some of our rural areas, privately contracted virtual teachers. A December report from the Economic Policy Institute found there is a widespread national teacher shortage that is especially severe here in Nevada. They found the current shortage is not the result of an insufficient number of qualified teachers, but rather low pay and an increasingly stressful work environment. The average pay differential between teachers and similar college graduates in the job market has grown to 23.5%.
In his recommended budget, Governor Lombardo highlighted a “record investment” in education, and it is true he recommends increasing per-pupil funding to $12,406 next fiscal year. However, this is $4000 less per pupil than the amount the Funding Commission identified as optimal. Instead of approaching optimal funding, the Governor proposes holding back money that could be used for our schools – $1.6B in the Rainy-Day Fund and $733M in the Education Stabilization Fund. He also wants to spend $50M on private school vouchers, the wrong way to go when our public schools are still underfunded.
With billions of dollars available for public education and educator vacancies at crisis levels, the Governor has made no proposal to address educator salaries. Contrast this with other states who have had similar issues and available resources. In early 2022, New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham announced an average raise of 20% for all New Mexico educators. Later that year, New Mexico saw a 34% drop in teacher vacancies, a direct result of the salary increases and investments in hardworking New Mexico educators. Nevada could see those same results, but it will take bold action and true investment.
That’s why NSEA has been calling on Nevada’s elected leaders to fund Time for 20, and time and time again, we have pointed to significant resources available. With billions of dollars in reserves, there’s more than enough to cover a 20% across-the-board educator raise, estimated by the Commission to cost about $650M/year. Instead, dollars meant for our schools are being stashed away. A proposal by legislative Democrats to add $250M for educator raises represents a good down payment on Time for 20. However, due to the mechanics of the new funding formula, certain school districts still won’t have the resources for any educator raises. This needs to be addressed because every Nevada educator deserves a raise. It’s Time for 20