Among the key highlights of SB543 the New Pupil Centered Funding Plan to update Nevada’s K-12 funding formula was creating a Commission on School Funding which makes recommendations and monitors the formula. Commission members include representatives from school districts and charter schools, finance experts and community leaders.
The commission’s job is to analyze and make recommendations on the following:
EQUITY: Weights – A multiplier of funding for unique need students. English Learners, At-Risk, Gifted and Talented and Special Education. This transitions the state away from limited, restricted-use programs.
ADEQUACY: Optimal per-pupil base funding – Recommend appropriate per-pupil funding and a ten-year plan on reaching funding goals; potentially using the recent school finance study (APA) as a guide.
FAIRNESS: Funding distribution mechanisms – How to best distribute funding among school districts.
The Commission makes these recommendations to the Legislature which ultimately makes final decisions.
Where they are now:
The Commission on School Funding first met in September of 2019 and so far have established the following:
Optimal Funding – While the commission has yet to determine what Optimal Funding means they have decided to establish two defined benchmarks.
- First benchmark includes restoring cuts to K-12 that occurred during the 2020 special session, including SB178, which are funds that were to be used to transition into weighted funding.
- The second benchmark includes achieving “adequacy” per-pupil funding per the APA state funding recommendations.
- The third benchmark requires the commission to define what “optimal” means and costing out the resources necessary to get there..
The Commission on School Funding developed two recommendations pertaining to weighted funding.
- At-Risk Definition: An alternative measure should be prescribed by the State Board of Education to define At-Risk pupils, who are eligible for additional services and supports to include identifying students who have a higher probability of failing academically or dropping out of school.
- Recommendation: State maintenance of effort (MOE) and federal funding for Special Education should be transferred to a separate account within the State Education Fund and the requirement for determining a per pupil amount in the weighted funding portion of the Pupil Centered Funding Plan should be removed from statute.
The Commission on School Funding developed three recommendations pertaining to reporting, more specifically for reporting frequency and timelines, staffing, and professional development.
- Recommendation: Applicable statutes should be revised with flexible terminology, such as “quarterly,” “annually,” or “biennially.” The Nevada Department of Education (NDE) should align specific report submission dates with the availability of final data.
- Recommendation: Reports on professional development should be revised to include the amount of funding expended and the source of funding by school district..
Recommendation: The Hold Harmless provision should be amended to include charter schools and university schools for profoundly gifted pupils.
The Small District Equity Adjustment (a metric to determine funding) should be revised to the attendance area level and the Necessarily Small School Adjustment should be eliminated from SB 543.
Ending Fund Balance
Recommendation: The definition of “ending fund balance” used in SB 543 should be revised to clarify that it is “the unrestricted General Fund balance for the school district, excluding the net proceeds of minerals.”
Recommendation: NDE should continue to have the ability to access additional revenue, if needed, to distribute the applicable base per pupil funding amount for each eligible pupil during a fiscal year, until such time as the Education Stabilization Account (savings) has sufficient revenue to support additional costs associated with an unanticipated increase in enrollment or an unexpected decrease in revenue in the State Education Fund.
To Be Determined:
Funding Amount: The Commission must identify what appropriate base funding is. Although the first two benchmarks, restoring K-12 cuts from K-12 session ($160 million) and reaching adequacy per APA ($9,238 per pupil base funding) however, they still need to determine how much Optimal would cost and will likely require another study.
Revenue Plan: Aside from determining the amount needed the commission must also make recommendations on where the revenue will come from by identifying new or modified revenue resources and to reach the funding goal within ten years. The revenue recommendations are ready to be made on the first two benchmarks though no revenue plan has been formally discussed yet.