After 12 days of special session the Nevada Legislature wrapped up with a devastating $1.2 billion in cuts to K-12, health and human services and other departments and programs. K-12 was particularly hit with more than $160 million in cuts to major services such as Read by Grade 3 services to support elementary literacy, SB178 which supports resources for vulnerable students and incentives for teachers to teach at disadvantaged schools. A last ditch effort resulted in $50 million in CARES funds from the state’s leftover federal dollars but comes with heavy restrictions that do not allow it to supplant services that were cut.
The Nevada Department of Education (NDE) superintendent Jhone Ebert was accompanied by members of her staff and other school district superintendents to discuss the impact cuts will have on students and explain the reasoning behind the proposed cuts. One important budget item that was not touched was the DSA, or per pupil funding, which would allow districts to have flexibility to use those funds the best way they see fit. The majority of K-12 cuts were to restricted programs, referred to as categoricals.
A Summary of Largest Cuts:
- Class Size Reduction– Funds used to support school districts to support appropriate class sizes. Even with this funding, Nevada has some of the highest class sizes in the country. Loss of $6 million out of $156 million.
- Read By Grade 3– Funds used to provide services for students in grades K-3 who are struggling in reading. Resources include reading specialists, tutoring, parent reading resources and after school reading programs. Currently, less than 50 % of students are proficient in reading by fourth grade. Loss of $31 million, entire appropriation for the 2020 FY. Click here for a report with list of schools receiving RBG3 funds. (Beginning on pg. 14 of report)
- Funding For New Nevada Plan SB178– Funds used to support underperforming English Learners and at-risk students who do not attend Victory or ZOOM schools with $1,200 per pupil This was supposed to be critical funding as the state transitioned to a weighted funding formula. Loss of $70 million, entire appropriation funding for FY 2020. For a list of schools receiving SB178 funding click here: sb178distributionlist
- Teacher School Supply Reimbursement– Reimbursement for teachers for up to $180 for school supplies. With supply costs likely to increase to meet the heightened safety requirements, this hard found appropriation will put additional an strain on educators. Loss of $4.5 million, entire appropriation.
- Facility improvements–– Funds provided to make facility improvements at CCSD and WCSD for safety and security via a 2019 safety bill SB551. Loss of $8.4 million.
- Teaching Incentives – Loss of $5 million. Incentives for continuing teaching at Title 1 schools (low income), incentives for new teachers at Title 1 and to transfer to Title 1 schools.
- End of Course Exams – Funding needed to carry out end of course exams for high schoolers. Loss of $1 million.
- Gifted and Talented – Funding for gifted students who need additional resources to meet their academic, social and emotional needs. Loss of $5.2 million.
To view a more detailed summary of cuts click here
July 8, the 31st Special Session kicked off with the Assembly going over the cuts (AB3) with the NDE Superintendent and debates around the reasoning behind the proposed cuts.
July 11, the Assembly heard a presentation on AB4 to allow the Clark County School District to use individual school’s carry over funds to restore funding for districtwide programs. The bill was widely unpopular with legislators, public commenters and in a last minute call it was discovered that CCSD had rescinded their desire for the bill prior to the start of session, which ended deliberations on the bill.
July 17, A proposal to tax mining and restore $127 million in cuts failed by one vote. The bill was brought up again with amendments to provide all those funds to K-12 but again failed.
July 19, Legislators finalized AB3, restoring $4 million in funds to K-12 financial literacy, the Teach Nevada scholarship, teacher training (NITEP), We The People and computer science and technology, but also making $5.2 million in cuts to the Gifted and Talented (GATE) program. Despite the restoration of funds, the cuts to the GATE program actually added another $1 million to the overall budget cuts to K-12.
July 19th, The legislature made an amendment to AB3 to include $50 million in federal funding from the CARES Act – left over from the state’s $250 million allocation from the federal government. This funding comes with many restrictions and cannot be used to supplant any existing programs.
The $50 million allocated from the CARES Act dollars will be granted out by the Nevada Department of Education and is limited by state and federal restrictions. AB 3 requires the funds to be used to support “categories of pupils who are likely to develop the largest deficits in educational attainment as a result of the loss of in person intensive instruction.” Eligible students will likely include student populations that had previously benefited from eliminated programs such as the Read by Grade 3 and SB 178. This includes students who need reading interventions, English learners, low-income students, students struggling with proficiency, students in poor performing schools, and any other students deemed disproportionately affected by the Covid crisis.
Although the parameters look similar to those in programs eliminated during the special session, these funds cannot be used to continue initiatives such as Read by Grade 3 or SB 178. These dollars are further impeded by federal requirements that the funds must be used:
To directly address necessary expenditures directly related to the COVID crisis;
To supplement, not supplant, previously budgeted resources, meaning it cannot simply fill budget holes or continue existing programs; and
Before December 30th, meaning it’s unlikely the dollars can support hiring staff.
The CARES dollars will most likely support internet connectivity and resources to improve distance learning. This is critically important to ensure Nevada’s most vulnerable students are not left behind. The funding will be awarded via a grant process.
IMPLICATIONS AND THE FUTURE
K-12 education was struggling prior to these difficult and devastating cuts. Perhaps the most concerning are the cuts to the entire SB178 program that serves vulnerable students. Removing all funding for the New Nevada Plan (SB178) will impact the state’s ability to support unique needs students under the new funding formula. This setback will undoubtedly hinder any chance for the new funding formula to be carried out adequately without a serious commitment to new revenue.
It is also important to remember that the legislature will meet again in less than six months for the regular session. How long this pandemic will last is unknown and how much more economic damage will occur is also uncertain. The next fiscal year does not look promising without any solutions for long term stable sources of revenue. Even more concerning is the damage the fallout from hybrid or online learning will do to kids, what job losses will do to families and how much regression will occur for our students and community. At a time when kids will need more support, schools will have less resources to provide to them. We hope Nevada rises above this by forging a path that provides a solid platform for our students beginning with real changes at the next regular legislative session. Lawmakers were faced with incredibly difficult choices during this unprecedented emergency, but the time is now to start building a strong foundation for the future.