Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky issued local business leaders a plea for help in reshaping the state’s school funding formula on Tuesday.
In 2011-12, the state handed $17,508 per student to Esmeralda County public schools while funding Clark County schools at a rate of $5,068 per student, a 70 percent difference.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have to change that,” said Skorkowsky at a Tuesday luncheon, trying to convince 400 business leaders to take an interest in public schools because “education equals economic development.”
Skorkowsky often hears similar input from community leaders: “The reason we can’t bring businesses here is the education system,” he told investors of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance gathered at the Four Seasons.
The alliance is a public-private partnership with an annual budget of $5.4 million dedicated to developing the Las Vegas Valley’s local economies. Switch is the alliance’s largest donor, with notable supporters including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, NV Energy, the Regional Transportation Commission, The Capitol Co., The Howard Hughes Corp., the city of Las Vegas and Clark County.
Skorkowsky touched on the 47-year-old funding formula in his hour-long speech that was heavy on information, explaining organizational charts of the School District and work streams while also showing pie charts of the district’s revenue sources.
But alliance CEO and President Tom Skancke went “rogue,” in his words, after Skorkowsky stepped away from the lectern. Skancke called on the influential audience to lobby state legislators to make Nevada’s school funding formula more equitable.
He called the differences in district funding “fundamentally wrong” and said the district needs business leaders’ backing.
Skorkowsky described how Clark County property taxes and other education revenues are given to Nevada’s 16 other rural districts to make up for their lagging local revenue.
Rewriting the formula has been under discussion at the state level but hasn’t gained traction. More than one bill draft request went nowhere in the Legislature’s 2013 session. In 2012, a legislative committee supported a change that would increase dollars to Clark County schools and decrease funding for all others in Nevada.
It recommended that Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Legislature replace the formula with a new system allocating more per-pupil funding for English language learners and other categories of students who cost more to educate.
The district, which is the state’s largest school system, has most of these students. Skorkowsky supported this proposal on Tuesday, but said the business community also needs to support it.
“We have to have a weighted funding formula,” he said.
Businesses can also make a difference at the school level by adopting a school, Skorkowsky said.
He acknowledged the charity of businesses, such as Wells Fargo, which donates $3 million a year to Clark County public schools.
“It is not just about money,” Skorkowsky said.
Wells Fargo workers have volunteered in schools, teaching students how to be financially responsible.
“The second you walk in the door, students see a success story,” said Skorkowsky, noting how “most parents are unskilled laborers.”
At 32 percent, the state ranks last in the nation for its rate of children with at least one college-educated parent, according to Education Week’s Quality Counts report. Recent high school graduates aren’t doing much better than their parents. About 40 percent of Nevada’s young adults are enrolled in college or have a college degree.
“Together, we will change the rankings of our district,” Skorkowsky said.
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.