It’s only Day 3, yet there’s already been a great deal of focus on education this session. With the adoption of the new funding formula and record state revenues, significant dollars are 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%.
With educator vacancies at crisis levels, Governor Lombardo has made no proposal to address educator pay. 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. Just last night, Governor Huckabee Sanders announced her proposal to raise Arkansas teacher pay by 29-39%.
With billions of dollars proposed for reserves, there’s more than enough to cover a 20% across-the-board educator raise, estimated by the Commission to cost about $650M/year. 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.
During this session, Education Committees have an equally important task to address workplace issues to improve educator morale. This includes lowering class sizes, making schools safer by fixing the restorative justice system, addressing the needs of education support professionals, giving educators greater autonomy regarding student grading and enforcing attendance requirements, allowing for adequate work time for lesson planning and collaboration, reduction of excessive paperwork, streamlining student assessments, and making teacher evaluations fair.