One Year Summary of Funding Commission
School Funding Commission Still Has Not Addressed Critical Funding Component
The Commission on School Funding recently wrapped up nearly a year’s worth of work making several recommendations related to Nevada’s new school funding formula, the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan (PCFP). Their recommendations will be presented to the Legislative Committee on Education at their next meeting. This sets the stage for the implementation of the new formula starting next year and potential legislative changes to the PCFP in the upcoming 2021 legislative session. The recommendations include changes in how the state accounts for district size variances, at-risk weight eligibility, hold-harmless for non-traditional public schools, funding to meet special education requirements and ending fund balance, along with statutory changes related to reporting requirements. The Commission will meet again this Friday at 9 a.m.
Though there appeared to be unanimous agreement from members that the public education system is grossly underfunded, the Commission has not yet made recommendations on “optimal” funding levels nor developed a ten-year plan for achieving optimal funding, as is their charge under SB 543. Creating targets for optimal or adequate funding is critical to educating the public and legislators on what is needed to give every student the opportunity to succeed. It is frankly the only way to have a truly “cost-based” funding model.
Identifying and creating a path to adequate funding also de facto addresses other important issues faced by the Commission. One controversial aspect of the bill essentially freezes funding levels for the majority of counties, most of which are not adequately funded, making no adjustments for enrollment growth or year-to-year inflation. The “freeze” intends to drive funding increases primarily to Clark County, but will also have unintended and devastating consequences on resource and staffing levels for counties that are already struggling. If there was a strong commitment to meet adequate funding targets, the “freeze” would be curtailed and promptly alleviated by the additional dollars.
Unfortunately, a rift has formed because everyone fears the status quo from lawmakers – new dollars (if any) to education will barely be enough to keep up with inflation and CCSD will forever be poorly funded while the other inadequately funded districts will continue to see cuts year after year, prolonging the damage. Unfortunately, both sides are right and feel compelled to fight over these “crumbs.” Without identification of adequate funding levels and a clear path to meet those targets, districts have no reason to anticipate appropriate funding levels in the future.
Inadequate funding also hinders the effort to transition to a weighted funding model (a system where all unique needs students get additional resources). This pits advocates for Zoom and Victory schools against those who insist all students with unique needs deserve additional state resources. Without a path to appropriate funding for the weighted funding formula, Zoom and Victory schools will face a loss of resources and programming, while the 80% of ELL and at-risk students currently not in a Zoom or Victory school will receive meager, ineffectual funding redistributed from those programs. With the recent elimination of funding for SB 178 (designed to aid in the transition to weights), it becomes increasingly difficult to responsibly transition to the new formula.
The Commission committed to addressing a path to adequate funding down the road, but this is arguably the most critical function of the Commission and necessary for the success of the PCFP. It must take priority, especially given the looming economic crisis.
Further, the definition and creation of “optimal” or adequate funding targets must be an exercise in determining what resources are necessary for all students to have the opportunity to succeed. The Commission already has the extensive work from several state studies that examined this issue and created actual targets they could choose to adopt. The optimal funding targets create a North Star for what is needed for students to meet or exceed the state’s own standards, what districts and schools need to meet legislative and regulatory mandates, and what is best practice for ensuring students are prepared for college, career, and community.
Determining optimal funding cannot be an exercise in laying out what is easy or politically expedient in the current climate. We do not adjust achievement standards during a crisis and we cannot not let a crisis determine necessary resources. There is a reason the Commission is made up of talented individuals that understand education and tax policy, and not politicians or government agencies. We are confident in their commitment to develop appropriate recommendations to benefit all Nevada students. Our state must take steps now to put public education on a path to success.
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.
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.
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.
Recommendations To Be Determined
Determining optimal per pupil funding levels (adequacy targets). How much is needed per pupil for students to have access to the resources they need. Target proposals have already been laid out by various state mandated reports that the commission could choose to adopt.
Determining a 10 year plan for implementation of these targets, along with suggested revenue or funding sources, per SB543.
Commission also expressed a desire to revisit the hold harmless provision that currently freezes funding for most counties.
[…] formula. As we noted in our last newsletter, this group of expert volunteers have accomplished a lot of work in the past […]