weather icon Partly Cloudy

Education funding a hot topic as Nevada Legislature set to begin

The signatures are collected. Unions and school districts are on board. Parents are becoming informed.

Now, as lawmakers convene in the capital, the question arises: will the Nevada Legislature heed the rallying cry to increase education funding?

A bill proposed by Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, hopes to start on that path.

But when it comes to change — and money — in the Silver State, such a plan will likely unroll slowly.

Nevada should be spending $9,238 per student, according to a 2018 study commissioned by the Legislature. That’s more than the $6,052 per-pupil amount for 2020 proposed in Gov. Steve Sisolak’s budget and the current average of $5,967 per pupil.

On top of that, the study recommended adding more money for students with certain needs — an amount determined by a fractional weight.

Ideally — and to be at least adequate — that would mean an additional $2,771 for at-risk or low-income students, $4,619 for English learners and $10,162 for special education students.

Yet researchers acknowledged that’s a stretch, and proposed alternative plans with a base of $5,988 per student.

Denis’ bill aims to expand upon such weighted student funding, which was passed in the last session with a plethora of caveats.

He said his bill will feature student-centered funding that anticipates the needs of school districts, rather than drawing figures based on the previous year’s statistics.

But the proposal isn’t about raising more money, Denis said — it’s about how to allocate it.

“The replacement of the Nevada Plan is a discussion about policy — how do we allocate the money,” he said. “It’s not a discussion about how much money. So that bill is not looking to increase or decrease (funding).”

The governor is also ready to change the 52-year-old Nevada Plan, proposing nearly double additional funds for English language learners, special education and low-income students.

The boost from $72 million to $139.8 million would increase the number of students served from 30,000 to 58,250.

That’s a significant expansion of weighted funds, which currently come with a number of caveats: students must be in the bottom 25 percent on state tests, be an English language learner or low-income and not attend a Victory or Zoom school that already receives extra funds.

“I look forward to working with the legislature to review the decades-old Nevada Plan to ensure that tax dollars for education follow the student,” Sisolak said in a statement. “Our statewide funding formula needs to be equitable for every student in every county in Nevada.”

But working out a solution will require the support of both rural and urban districts alike.

The initiative has rural lawmakers concerned that school districts in their areas may lose funding — particularly after the Elko County School District predicted losing money.

“If they get hit with a 20 percent change, I don’t know what they’ll do,” said Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko. “It’s going to work fine to change the formula for Clark, but you got 15 counties out here that it might be a whole different ballgame.”

It’s perhaps one of the biggest education-related issues for an upcoming legislative session that will have education once again at the forefront.

Safety and salary

Sisolak, meanwhile, has proposed pouring $76.2 million into school safety — the majority of which will come from the 10 percent retail tax on marijuana.

The proposal comes after public outcry over those funds, which were ultimately sent into the rainy day fund after a political battle in the last legislative session over school choice.

The funding would grow the number of behavioral health specialists in schools from 119 in the spring of 2016 to 353, according to state data.

It would also boost school police officers, adding 30 in the first year and 40 the next — welcome news for the Clark County School District Police Officers Association.

“We definitely need officers, and if they can take money they already have and use that for a good cause, I think that’s the way to go,” said Matt Caldwell, president of the association.

The new school safety account will also fund threat assessments and training for rural districts and the creation of a five-year strategic plan on social, emotional and academic development.

It also requires the governor to appoint a statewide school safety committee and requires principals to establish plans for restorative discipline rather than the more harsh progressive discipline.

Sisolak is also proposing that educators get a 3 percent cost-of-living increase at a cost of $89.4 million in fiscal year 2020 and $91.2 million in 2021.

The governor has not specified where exactly that money is coming from, but he wants to retain the state’s modified business tax and part of the governmental services tax, which could generate millions more in funding.

“My budget is a balanced one, and all funding proposed comes from funding already available,” Sisolak said. “Initiatives like the pay raise for teachers and increased reimbursement for classroom supplies will come through the general fund.”

Other legislation

Other planned education-related bills include the creation of a prekindergarten account that will award funding to school districts for early childhood education.

The Department of Education, which sponsored the bill, would administer the money through a competitive grant process. The account would be located in the state’s general fund.

Another bill from the department creates a new kind of charter school under the Achievement School District initiative known as an “A+” achievement charter. In this unique setup, the school district remains the employer of the staff at an A+ achievement charter, which is tapped for the achievement district due to low performance.

An independent administrator, selected by the executive director of the achievement district, then appoints the school’s governing body and principal.

The department declined to comment on the bills, citing the governor’s office review of all bill draft submitted prior to Sisolak’s time in office.

Lawmakers are also once again proposing cameras in certain special education classrooms — a proposal that died in the 2017 legislative session.

The bill rose out of concern from parents of special education children who could not describe what was happening in classrooms.

The Clark County School District has recently agreed to settle a lawsuit over one special education teacher’s alleged verbal and physical abuse of students that occurred in 2015.

The $1.2 million settlement, which will include more money for attorney’s fees, has yet to be approved by the School Board.

Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, a sponsor of the camera bill, said it will protect both the students, teachers and the schools. It also informs parents about the best methods for teaching their child.

“They can see if it’s working or not so they can make better decisions when it comes to sitting down and talking about their (individualized education program),” he said.

A previous version of this article had an incorrect figure for the amount of education funding per pupil.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Jurors hear opening statements in Reid personal injury trial
Opening statements were made on Tuesday in the product liability lawsuit brought by Harry Reid against against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Mayor Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels
Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on March 26, 2019.
Las Vegas City Council Ward 1 race
Candidates for Las Vegas City Council Ward 1. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O’Rourke campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke addresses attendees during a campaign stop at Arandas Taqueria in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 24, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O'Rourke House Party in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke delivered a message of unity inside a Las Vegas living room Saturday night, outlining a mission to bridge the divide in a polarized America and rally behind “big defining ambitions that we have in common.” (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks at Atomic Liquors
Democrat presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks to her supporters at Atomic Liquors.
Presidential candidate Gillibrand meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys at her first stop in Nevada as a candidate Thursday, March 21, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto promotes the Rebuild America’s Schools Act
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., co-sponsor of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, speaks at Hoggard Elementary School in Las Vegas to promote the bill that would provide $100 billion for infrastructure improvements at schools across the country. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Scholar Max Eden on how restorative justice decreases student achievement - VIDEO
Across the country, restorative justice is lowering test scores and increasing the number of students who feel unsafe at schools. That’s according to Max Eden, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, who recently released a study discipline reform.
NV Dems Want To Gut Read By Three - Video
Nevada’s students have a major problem. They aren’t very good at reading. In 2017, just 31 percent of fourth graders were proficient at reading according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. The number proficient falls to 28 percent in eighth grade. Read by Three could change that. If a student can’t read at grade level by the end of third grade, he repeats the grade.
Presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard stumps in Las Vegas
Presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, holds a meet and greet at the Asian Culture Center in downtown Las Vegas Monday, March 18, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto