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Panel signs off on major spending plan for Nevada schools

Updated May 18, 2017 - 4:33 pm

CARSON CITY — A Legislative budget subcommittee on Thursday signed off on a big chunk of the public schools budget for the coming two years, voting to include $63 million in revenue from a new 10 percent retail tax on recreational marijuana as proposed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

But much remains unresolved with school funding for the coming two years, and lawmakers are running out of time as a June 5 adjournment deadline approaches.

Some recommendations from Sandoval, including $42 million in new revenue to expand the Zoom Schools focusing on English language learners and $30 million for Victory Schools in high-poverty areas, were left unresolved by the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means subcommittee.

Funding for these programs will be detailed in Senate Bill 178, which addresses the public education funding formula. The Senate education committee passed and re-referred the amended bill to the finance committee on Thursday.

Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, was the only committee member to vote no, saying he didn’t have enough time to digest the amendment discussed Wednesday.

Also unresolved is funding for the Education Savings Account program. Sandoval has recommended $60 million for the program to give parents $5,200 to help pay for private school tuition. Republicans support the program but Democrats are opposed.

Senate Finance Chairwoman Joyce Woodhouse reiterated Wednesday that Senate Bill 506 funding the ESA program will get a hearing, but no date has been set.

The measure implementing the recreational marijuana tax, Senate Bill 508, will require a two-thirds vote in both the Assembly and Senate to be approved.

Without the funding from the new tax there would be a $63 million hole in the major public schools budget, called the Distributive School Account.

Even with the outstanding issues, the bipartisan budget closings by the subcommittee of the DSA mark an important milestone for the Legislature to finalize Sandoval’s $8.2 billion, two-year general fund budget.

Under the plan, the basic support per pupil would increase to $5,900 in Fiscal Year 2018, which begins July 1, and to $5,967 in Fiscal Year 2019. Basic support is estimated at $5,774 this year.

The DSA budget as approved by the subcommittee includes $30 million to provide additional support for students with disabilities. It also includes 2 percent cost-of-living raises for teachers and other school personnel.

Much more state funding goes to support public education beyond the basic support amounts.

One of these “Other State Education” programs would be having social workers in schools, with more than $22 million slated to continue the program.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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