CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Unexpected state revenue and a bipartisan consensus to provide need-based education funds are converging at the Capitol this month as Nevada’s political powerhouses finalize a deal to provide tens of millions more dollars to public schools.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero has negotiated a formula with Democratic Sen. Mo Denis, teachers union leaders and minority groups that would pick up where Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s signature education reforms leave off.
The measure would determine the number of students who come from impoverished families or are learning English, and give schools about $1,400 for each of those students who also test in the bottom quartile on state assessments or have flunked high school classes. It would target only schools not served by programs Sandoval established in 2015.
Canavero said he expects the proposal, in its current form, could expand literacy and after-school services for at least 30,000 K-12 students in Nevada.
“That’s going to really make a difference for those kids and make a difference for those schools,” Sandoval said.
Supporters at the statehouse want the reweighted system to get $72 million of $96 million in previously unanticipated tax revenue that economic advisers say the state will see over the next two years.
“Where we’re focusing is, from a state policy perspective, around equity, which is I think the critical driver here,” Canavero said.
Nevada is consistently one of the lowest performing states in K-12 student achievement.
Denis said the weighted-funding working group, spanning the governor’s office to university admissions offices, agrees the biggest challenge is helping kids who are not attaining their grade-level standards.
“Generally everybody’s got their own interests, and in this case the interest is in helping our lowest-achieving kids,” Denis said.
The state was already scheduled in 2021 to recalculate its per-pupil funding formula, which currently provides some additional funds for certain needy students.
But Democrats, with control of the Legislature, forced the issue this session with a longshot proposal to speed up the recalculation and expedite billions more dollars for language and intervention programs.
Clark County Education Association, the Las Vegas teachers union, has been pivotal in pushing for a financially realistic solution this session — in no small part due to a state-imposed deadline later this year for one of the nation’s largest school districts to implement some form of weighted funding as part of a broader reorganization.
“It is the right thing to do,” union leader John Vellardita said. “I think when leadership of both parties, both (legislative) houses, the governor, the Department of Ed can come to terms around good policy and agree on that, I think people feel that they have done good for the state of Nevada and the children of Nevada.”
Denis has consistently argued that students cannot wait for the state to further focus its resources on the neediest among them.
The governor is on board.
“Student achievement is starting to improve and I think graduation rates are improving, proficiency is improving, all those things,” Sandoval said. “It’s going to take time as these kids matriculate from kindergarten up, but I’m really optimistic of what’s going to happen.”
Supporters expect Senate Bill 178 to get fast-tracked through the legislative process next week, the last full week of the biennial session.