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Public Comment

Public Comment: Commission on School Funding

NSEA's Public Comment from the June 11, 2021 Commission on School Funding Meeting
Public Comment
Published: 06/11/2021

Public Comment #1

The Nevada State Education Association has been the voice of Nevada educators for over 120 years. For decades, NSEA has led the charge against chronic underfunding of public education in Nevada, from the instigation of the IP1 room tax in 2008 and qualification of the Education Initiative in 2014 to our 5 major Red for Ed rallies in Carson City in recent years. NSEA’s efforts have been a large part of creating a social and political consensus – Nevada needs to invest significantly more in public education.

Since the creation of the Commission on School Funding two years ago, NSEA expressed numerous policy concerns with the new funding plan, especially regarding the lack of new revenue. In lieu of new funding, this Commission was charged with recommending funding targets and identifying revenues to fully fund the associated cost. On April 23rd, you published your Preliminary Recommendations Regarding Optimal Funding. While NSEA opposed SB543, we largely agree with the funding targets set in this document, including your proposal to reach “adequate” funding by increasing education investment by $2B over the next 10 years. After submission of your recommendations to the legislature, NSEA was by far the most vocal proponent of the document, meeting with legislators and testifying about it in front of the K-12 Budget Subcommittee, the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means, the Senate Committee on Finance, and the Senate and Assembly Committees on Revenue. We were disappointed there was not more visible advocacy of this document from members of this Commission.

In your revenue plan, you primarily focus on property tax and expanding the base of the sales tax. NSEA has been supportive of numerous proposals to address Nevada’s property tax, including SJR14 in 2017 and 2019 and SB10 and SB64 this past session. Unfortunately, all of these proposals failed to achieve the required support even in legislatures with Democratic majorities.

In May, the Economic Forum brought significant good news for Nevada’s budget — a total of $910M more in better-than-projected state revenue for this fiscal year and the upcoming biennium. This allowed the budget committees to backfill general fund cuts. In response to the momentum created by educators across the state, the legislature backfilled the cuts, adding over $500M to the Governor’s proposed K-12 budget for the next biennium. However, we soon realized these funds were merely restorations, as total per-pupil funding decreased by $115 from FY21 to FY22.

That’s why since last summer, NSEA has worked with our progressive partners on increasing mining tax revenue. In that time, we held three major Red for Ed rallies in Carson City, generated thousands of emails and phone calls to legislators and spent hours upon hours engaging in public comment. In the end, legislators passed AB495, which included a new tax on mining gross revenues to generate an estimated $85M/year. The bill dedicates these funds along with another $70M/year in existing net proceeds from mining to the new education funding plan starting in 2023. The mining tax deal generated less revenue than we had hoped. In order to meet your recommendations moving forward, we will need an additional $600M in revenue for K-12 education each biennium. (This includes $200M for the first year and $400M for the out year.) Even with mining taxes dedicated to the new funding plan, Nevada will need to come up with another $300M next session to keep up with this goal. NSEA stands ready to work with the Funding Commission or other stakeholders to make this goal a reality.

Public Comment #2

The Nevada State Education Association has been the voice of Nevada educators for over 120 years. For the past 2 years, NSEA has expressed concern about Nevada’s proven models of education equity, Zoom and Victory Schools.

Zoom and Victory Schools are located in Nevada’s poorest communities and serve the highest percentage of at-risk students.

With the shift away from a school-based approach, Zoom and Victory schools will have their budgets reduced and lose significant momentum on school climate and culture, jeopardizing gains made for students in our most impacted schools and communities.

Despite our calls to grandfather existing Zoom and Victory Schools, the legislature decided to move forward with transferring Zoom and Victory funding into weights in the new funding formula. Weights were set 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 $243 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.

While flexibility is given to districts to smooth these cuts this biennium, and the Clark County School District has indicated an intention to backfill shortfalls to these schools with available federal funds, unless significant progress is made on weights in the next two years, deep cuts would be made to schools in Nevada’s poorest communities in two years. We hope this significant equity issue is addressed by the Funding Commission. Thank you.

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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.