Optimal funding, the elephant in the room, is up for discussion at tomorrow’s Commission on School Funding meeting. The commission, which recently wrapped up its first year of meetings, has made several recommendations for the legislature to consider. However, and perhaps because it is the most challenging, they have yet to address the issue of optimal funding – or the target level of funding students need to be successful.
Last month we summarized the work of the commission up until the month of July, noting that they had yet to address:
- Creating optimal funding targets for the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan
A ten-year plan to incrementally reach those targets
Identifying potential revenue sources to fund optimal funding
Tomorrow, the commission will begin the discussion by determining what the term “optimal funding” means. ENN has testified that any definition of optimal funding should be guided by student outcomes and needs. Optimal funding should reflect the funding necessary for every student to have the resources they need to be successful. In other words, it should be pupil-centered.
What questions does optimal funding seek to answer?
What proven, effective and evidenced-based resources give all our students the opportunity to graduate college and career ready? What do students need so they can be proficient in our academic content standards – reading, writing, math, and science? How do we ensure students receive training for the careers that will drive our economy in the years to come? What resources will ensure our college-bound students are college ready on day one? What resources are necessary to lift all students up to provide truly equitable opportunities? How we answer these questions should drive the discussion on optimal funding.
Do we need a new optimal funding study?
The commission has already indicated it will use previous school funding studies as a guide. These studies, such as the recent APA study from 2018, examined the cost of providing essential resources so students have the opportunity to meet or exceed state standards. Relying on this already completed Nevada-specific study negates the need for any additional costly and time-consuming reviews. The APA studies utilized input from educators, districts, and the community to determine appropriate access to essential resources such as teachers, support professionals, administrative staff, tutors, school supplies, and other important education elements.
ENN looks forward to the important first step of defining “optimal funding” and the process of developing a plan to reach that goal. Our students deserve a thoughtful plan to put them on a path to success.
Planning during a recession
Despite the recent economic impact due to Covid 19, the commission’s work continues and luckily so does their intention. During their most recent meeting there was a consensus by the commission members that the recession should not have an impact on identifying the key factors in the formula, noting that we can’t let the current economic crisis hinder discussions of a funding plan that spans ten years.
As Commissioner Hobbs said, “The needs are still the needs today regardless of how our current revenue system may be performing.”
Watch tomorrow’s Commission on School Funding meeting tomorrow at 9:00AM, live streamed by the Nevada Department of Education, link available here.