Bill approved unanimously despite unclarity over a decrease in K-12 funding.
Carson City, NV – Despite the cheers, congratulatory statements and celebrations from last week regarding a $500 million increase in K-12 public school funding, it now appears that schools may not in fact see an increase and may actually receive less funding than the last biennium. Regardless of the doubts surrounding numbers in the bill, legislators hastily passed Senate Bill 458 for the Governor’s signature during a late night vote on Wednesday and without much deliberation.
Educate Nevada Now had spent the last two days since the bill became available for review evaluating and assessing the apparent drop in per-pupil Total Public Support in the recently released K-12 budget bill, SB 458, as compared to SB 555, the budget bill from the 2019 session. Despite identical language in both bills describing “Total Public Support” as all money appropriated to support public schools (with the exception of federal funds), the total support appears to drop from $10,227 in FY 20 and $10,319 in FY 21 down to $10,204 in FY 22 and $10,290 in FY 23.
“We’d been told inconsistent reasons on what may account for the apparent reduction, but no concrete per-pupil figure for an apples-to-apples comparison was ever made available. In fact, we were told that even with the unaccounted for funds, there still may not be a per-pupil increase in the end,” said ENN Executive Director, Amanda Morgan.
It is clear that the $500 million recently “added” to K-12 did not significantly impact the per pupil figure that schools rely on for budgeting. The figures appear to contradict the narrative in many headlines that this additional funding would increase money to schools and somehow pull Nevada out of its low, national per-pupil ranking.
“People got the impression that schools would receive an increase of $500 million. But it appears a significant portion of that funding just went to restore cuts. We are glad that lawmakers could restore those funds, especially after such trying economic challenges, but we need to be clear about what these dollars mean and manage people’s expectations. This does help put us near where we were in 2019, but it does not mean students will see smaller class sizes or that schools will see more resources or supports,” Morgan said.
A clear comparison of the funding is made harder this year because of the transition to a new funding formula, the Pupil Centered Funding Plan, despite transparency being a key highlight of the PCFP.
“We hope that there is, in fact, a funding increase for the sake of our students. But the bill moved forward despite a clear explanation regarding the discrepancy between what the bill says and what we heard during committee meetings. Unfortunately, based on year-over-year comparisons of the legislation, it doesn’t appear that there is an increase in funding. Ultimately, the public deserved better transparency and a more deliberate, inclusive process so that we can understand what the funding outlook is for our schools,” said Morgan. “The silver lining is that the state can still use federal relief dollars to cover any shortfalls and help schools realize the increase everyone is now expecting. Despite our concerns, we remain hopeful that legislators will come through for the kids and find a way to make this right.”