Local education officials are still vowing to push for a fully weighted student funding formula from the state, despite an additional $107 million that Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget proposal would include for certain student categories.
Sandoval’s proposal will eventually establish a designated weight — a per-pupil amount determined by the state — for gifted and talented students in 2019, with a total of $14.3 million reserved for those students over the next two years.
Meanwhile, the plan also would increase funds for the special education weight already in place by $30 million, providing a total $183 million in 2018 and $199 million in 2019.
But those are two of the four weights that the Clark County School District said it needs in order to craft individual school budgets as part of its massive reorganization.
A weighted formula uses a multiplier to assign more money to students in special categories, which also include English Language Learners and students receiving free and reduced lunch — the two categories that don’t yet have an assigned weight.
Weighted funds are an integral part of the new school empowerment model that the Clark County School District will utilize in its massive reorganization. Each school must craft its own budget based on these weights.
“Through the legislative process we will continue to push for the full implementation of a Weighted Funding Formula to support the reorganization of the Clark County School District,” the district said in a statement.
The district estimates that a fully funded weighted formula would cost over $600 million for Clark County alone. Over $261 million already comes from the district’s general fund to cover education costs, according to the district.
The proposed budget for the next biennium also builds upon Sandoval’s priorities in 2015, expanding on the Victory and Zoom school initiatives that aid English language learners and students in poverty.
The Victory program would receive a total $80 million for underperforming schools in poor zip codes, while the Zoom program would receive $142 million to continue aid for schools with high populations of English language learners.
But unlike weights that are distributed on a per-pupil basis, these programs are considered categorical funding and assigned to qualifying schools. Both programs will be monitored and used to help develop the appropriate weight for those two student groups by 2021.
The Clark County Education Association called the plan a good “starting point” for legislators, but said more money has to follow the student into the classroom.
“Adequate money must follow the student,” the union that represents teachers said in a statement. “Categorical programs were the right thing to do when they were first introduced, but now it is time to transition to full implementation of the weighted funding formula for students.”
But State Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero called the governor’s budget “incredibly generous,” noting that it adds another $120 million to 2015 educational initiatives.
Canavero insisted that regulations for the reorganization law allows the district to establish its own weights.
He argued that the district could absolutely continue with the reorganization without weights designated by the state.
“They could actually propose a weight on their own, which I have told them in writing,” he said. “That they choose not to is unfortunate.”