Education funding hike proposed for 2 student groups

CARSON CITY — A panel of state officials and educators on Wednesday recommended a significant change to how Nevada allocates public education dollars to account for the challenges of educating students in poverty and those who are not fluent in English.

The major recommendation from a state Technical Advisory Committee would increase funding for students in those groups by 50 percent, establishing a minimum 1.5 weighted ratio in calculating their share of a school district’s total state and local per pupil funding.

The recommendation, approved by the advisory committee with three dissenting votes, would allow state lawmakers to set the ratio higher but not lower than a 1.5 weighted ratio. The actual ratio would be established after further study.

Many states used such weighted ratios to provide additional resources to educate these groups of students.

The advisory committee also recommended that the additional funding be set apart from the current student funding formula initially to ensure it is spent on programming and not subject to collective bargaining efforts. The intent would be to move toward including the funding into the formula in the future.

Any changes to the funding formula to help educate these groups of pupils are expected to primarily benefit the Clark County School District because of its large populations of English Language Learners and students in poverty.

To mute the effects of the changes, the committee also recommended that districts be kept whole in the next biennium by allocating only new revenue to the revised formula. There would then be a phase in to incorporate the changes over a period of four years to allow districts to adjust to the changes.

But any changes have a long way to go before they could take effect.

The advisory committee recommendations will now be forwarded to the Task Force on K-12 Public Education Funding, which meets today. The task force has until June 30 to finalize its recommendations for legislation to be considered by the 2015 Legislature.

The committee heard more than two hours of testimony in support of changes to the existing Nevada Plan for funding public education before making its recommendations.

Several speakers told the committee that Nevada’s current education funding plan is unconstitutional and exposes the state to legal liability.

Staci Pratt, legal director for the ACLU of Nevada, said the state’s current education funding plan is not serving the needs of all students.

The Legislature considered a change to the funding formula in 2013 but ultimately failed to adopt any policy changes. The Legislature and Gov. Brian Sandoval did, however, allocate $50 million in state funds for English Language Learners, the first state funding of its kind.

Nevada’s statewide ELL population was 68,383 in the 2012-13 school year, according to the state Department of Education. The Clark County population was 53,534. The Clark County School District is receiving about $39 million of the total ELL funding provided by the 2013 Legislature.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.

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