Roughly 80 percent – that’s how many Nevada public school students with unique needs are not provided funds to pay for the additional resources they need.
Students with unique needs includes those who are identified as English Language Learners (ELL) or at-risk (Free and reduced lunch eligible or FRL). These students should be provided additional funds above the base funding all students receive to cover the cost of resources that provide these students the same opportunity for success as their peers. Often, these additional funds come in the form of “weights” (additional dollars attached to the base per pupil funding), and in many other states, it is factored into their education funding formula.
Nevada does not have weights and instead has provided funds via restricted-use programs such as ZOOM Schools and Victory Schools, along with the newer SB 178 program that serves certain students based on their achievement level and school star-rating. ZOOM and Victory programs have produced mostly positive results over the years by providing reading centers, increased instruction time, individualized learning strategies and other resources that have had positive and lasting impacts on students. Unfortunately, there are not enough funds to provide all students with unique needs with the same resources.
Educate Nevada Now ran an analysis and found these restricted-use or categorical programs only serve 20 percent of students with unique needs statewide.
A district by district analysis found there were no districts that fared that much better than others. While some districts had slightly better funding for ELL students they would have a much higher population of FRL students with unmet needs.
For example, Humboldt County School district had 82% of unfunded ELL Students and 91% of FRL students receiving no money for critical resources.
Table 1. Number of ELL and FRL Students receiving no categorical funds
Additional findings from the analysis
On average, 80% of FRL and ELL students are not receiving any additional state dollars.
On average, 68% of ELL students are not receiving any additional state dollars.
On average, roughly 84% of FRL students are not receiving any additional state dollars.
Three districts (Achievement, Eureka, and Humboldt) have more than 75% of their ELL students receiving no additional state dollars.
This makes it clear that we have a statewide problem and that deserves a statewide solution. If we had a new modernized education funding formula that included weights, Nevada wouldn’t have to be in the business of picking and choosing which students get additional resources as is it currently does.
Aside from not serving enough students, the current programs Nevada has in place are unstable as they have to be reauthorized every legislative session and don’t keep up with inflation rates or student population growth. This means that funding loses value therefore decreasing funds provided by the ZOOM and Victory programs. Schools receiving SB178 funds that have made improvements,and improved their star rating, could lose their funding as a result of their success.
However, just getting rid of restricted-use programs and diluting those resources that only serve 20 percent of unique students to all qualifying students could provide such minimal funds that accomplishing any real impact or results is challenging.
Ultimately, we need to ensure that we provide the proper resources that ALL students need to be successful, and it needs to be a pivotal part the new proposed funding formula.