During his State of the State, Governor Steve Sisolak emphasized his commitment to education. Besides supporting the continuation of many educational programs from the prior administration, Gov. Sisolak also announced that he would provide a pay raise for educators, expand SB178, increase funds for school supplies for Read by Grade 3 and for new preschool slots as well as school safety.
Fund Our Future Nevada is excited about our new state leadership and has faith that Gov. Sisolak and the Nevada Legislature will finally support modernizing our outdated 52-year-old funding formula.
However, the proposed education budget or Basic Support Guarantee (BSG) creates a real challenge for districts.The proposed per pupil funding for the 2019/2020 school year of $6,052 and $6,116 for 2020-2021 is only increased by 1.42 percent and 1.06 percent respectively. If the inflation used by the state continues at the estimated 2 percent average, the newly approved budget actually creates a deficit for the second fiscal year.
The education programs that got bolstered support, such as raises for teachers, increased funds for some academically at-risk students, continuation of ZOOM and Victory schools, school safety, and “Read by Grade Three” funds, certainly help improve outcomes for some students. However, with such modest funds appropriated for the base funding school districts will have difficulty keeping up with costs for transportation, books, electives, technology and all other operating costs, it may even lead to hiring freezes, layoffs and even increased class sizes.
The base fund accounts for more than 75 percent of a school budget and is what is used to cover the cover the most critical school operation costs.
The new proposed budget continues the 10-year trend of flat funding that does not keep up with the cost increases all school districts face.
A recent funding study by Augenblick Palaich and Associates found that Nevada only funds its schools at 58% of adequacy. This new budget does not improve those numbers.
Additionally, the new budget continues to supplant the IP1 Room Tax dollars that are supposed to increase education funding but are instead replacing other revenues that are supposed to go into the education budget. That’s close to $400 million in one biennium transferred from the Supplemental School Fund Account into the DSA (the education budget), funds that are not offering additional support to our students or educators. The IP1 taxes were supposed to be new revenues proposed by voters to increase school funding. When increases don’t filter down to the school districts, everyone is shortchanged.
Nevada needs a new education funding formula that addresses critical operating costs (the per pupil or “base” funding), as well as weighted funding to support students with unique needs. Nearly every district is struggling with increasing costs and years of underfunding. Simply redistributing inadequate funds from one district to another shortchanges our students, and will again result in devastating budgets cuts throughout the state’s school districts. Nationally, Nevada ranks near the bottom in funding, and we must commit to improving the elephant in the room: increasing per-pupil funding. The state has already done the work of determining the cost of providing every student with the opportunity to succeed (APA Study), now we must begin moving towards adequate funding for all students. And no student --rural or urban, Northern or Southern — should be harmed in that process.
We know that this legislative session is different and that we can rectify the years of neglect to our school districts’ base funds that support our critical school operations as well as provide weighted funding to support all students with unique needs. Nevada doesn’t have to be at the bottom, we know this is the session we move upward.
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