The 82nd Legislative Session began on February 6, 2023!
ENN looks forward to advocating on behalf of Nevada students during this critically important legislative session. Please check out our upcoming “Legislative Cheat Sheet,” for the latest on education-related topics, proposed bills, and budgets during session. We will also be sharing updates via our newsletter, so sign up here.
ENN K-12 Legislative Priorities
This legislative session brings enormous opportunities to improve resources and promote equity and fairness in public education. The preceding years have laid bare the deep inequities in educational opportunity, but positive revenue projections and federal aid give lawmakers the tools to improve students outcomes by supporting Nevada children. We urge lawmakers to:
Honor the intent of the school funding formula by:
Increasing state funding for public education, so it aligns with the intent of the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan. The new formula aimed to have a long-term plan that increases funding proportional to economic growth and inflation. It also aimed to avoid supplanting the state general fund’s contribution to education with increasing or new revenue sources.
Ensuring equitable opportunities for academically vulnerable students by implementing at-risk weighted funding that addresses the needs of all students in poverty or struggling to meet academic proficiency. Any effort to define eligibility for the at-risk weight should address the needs of all students who are not-proficient in core subjects, be developed with transparency and community input, and avoid arbitrary limitations.
Ensure equitable opportunities for career and technical programs (CTE)
Public school CTE programs should enjoy the same benefits as private schools – access to resources via a tax credit scholarship program. For several years, businesses could donate to private schools and receive a tax credit. However, they do not have a way to support public schools, and specifically, programs that enhance the very workforce they need to foster. This is inherently inequitable, and CTE programs in public schools should benefit from a tax credit scholarship that prepares students for the 21st-Century economy.
Avoid Expansion of Harmful Private School Voucher Schemes
Limited state resources should be devoted to public, rather than private, schools. Private school voucher schemes lack accountability and transparency, and can result in misuse of dollars, discrimination and poor outcomes for students. Private schools that receive tax dollars via the Opportunity Scholarship voucher scheme can choose 1) which academic assessments to give, making student growth or decline difficult to assess, 2) whether to keep or share important data, 3) to hire unlicensed or unqualified educators, and 4) which students to accept or reject for nearly any reason.
View and download our Legislative Priorities here
Unfortunately, Nevada students:
Have the worst ACT scores in the country – Nevada students are not graduating college-ready.
Are not proficient in core subjects – Less than 50% of Nevada students are proficient in math and reading in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th grade levels based on the state’s own standards. Only 30% of 8th grade students were found to be proficient in math. (Preliminary drop to 11% proficiency post-Covid).
Lack necessary counselors – The state averages only 1 counselor for every 1,000 students. Recommended ratio is 1 to 250. (National Association of School Counselors).
Learn in the largest class sizes in the country – This creates difficult conditions for both students and teachers.
Do not have the essential resources they need – Nevada ranks 48th in per-pupil funding.
Live in a state that chronically under-funds its schools – The most recent Making the Grade report by Education Law Center gave Nevada F’s in all categories – Funding Levels, Equity, and Funding Effort. Nevada was the only state to receive all Fs.
Highlighted Considerations During Legislative Session
Positive Revenue Projections
Nevada lawmakers will be going into this legislative session with a $2.3 billion increase in revenue over the last biennium. These increases are largely fueled by better than expected sales and property tax revenue, among other positive tax projections. As a result, sources to the State Education Fund (Nevada’s K-12 education fund) have increased significantly. ENN will be monitoring if these tax increases impact what the state contributes to education directly via its State General Fund contribution. Any effort to reduce the state’s contribution would be supplanting and would violate the intent of the new funding formula, the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan. Furthermore, it is important for Nevadan’s to recognize that much of these tax increases are fueled by the injection federal dollars into the economy. Finding a sustainable way to maintain funding levels will be a challenge lawmakers will need to consider and overcome.
Redefining At-Risk Could Negatively Impact Low-Income Students
Lawmakers will be developing an education budget that will include weighted funding (additional funding) for “at-risk” students. During the interim period between sessions, the Nevada Department of Education used the regulatory process to reduce eligibility for the at-risk weight by 75%. This means that only 15% of low-income students that would have been eligible for the weight previously will now receive no additional funds. Despite most states providing additional funds to low-income income students using Free and Reduced Price Lunch eligibility (FRL) as a proxy for at-risk status, NDE instead used a third party company to develop an opaque formula that greatly reduced eligibility. Learn more about this problematic change here.