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February 27, 2015

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Report: Nevada education funding formula no longer adequate for urban Clark County

Nevada lawmakers should ditch an anachronistic education funding formula that favors sparsely populated counties in favor of a new method that also awards dollars based on the number of children living in poverty and learning English, according to a new report presented to a legislative panel Tuesday.

Recalculating the way the state distributes funding for kindergarten through 12th grade by those parameters could mean a dramatic increase in Clark County per-pupil funding and may set the stage for yet another north-south money battle.

Nevada is one of only two states — the other being South Dakota — that doesn’t account for English language learners, students in poverty or the gifted and talented, which generally are more expensive to educate, according to the report by American Institutes of Research.

Nevada also shortchanges districts when it comes to the cost of special education students.

The way Nevada funds education in each county has been a sore point, particularly for Southern Nevada, where many believe Clark County subsidizes the rest of the state.

On a per-pupil basis, Clark County consistently receives less state aid than other counties, despite generating the most tax revenue. Last year, for example, Clark County was awarded $5,068 per student. Esmeralda County received the most: $17,508 per pupil.

That’s largely because the state factors in local taxes and then adds money for counties that are sparsely populated and geographically remote.

“The current formula is an elegantly designed funding mechanism suitable for an essentially homogenous rural state,” according to the authors.

In other words, the plan no longer fits a state anchored by a metropolitan school district such as Clark County.

The plan “is outdated,” said Teresa Jordan, professor emeritus of UNLV, who worked on the study. Under the current system, “the less wealthy get more funds and the wealthy get less.”

The state’s current formula, called the Nevada Plan, was passed in 1967 and has undergone some adjustments along the way. But Clark County has grown into the fifth largest school district in the nation.

“We’ve always had a sense that the formula didn’t meet the true needs of our students,” said Joyce Haldeman, an associate superintendent at the Clark County School District. “This report seems to reaffirm that.”

Haldeman said the School District does not support making a sudden change in the formula that would punish rural school districts. Instead, it would support phasing in a new formula on increased funding going forward.

But calculations included in the report — which lawmakers will use to guide the debate over reworking the funding formula — suggest significant changes. If the state began to account for free and reduced lunches, English language learners and other factors, Clark County would see a 6 percent increase in per-pupil funding. Washoe County would see a 2 percent decrease while Eureka County would see a 49 percent decrease. The other 14 rural counties also would see large decreases in per-pupil funding. (The state’s 17 counties also serve as the boundaries for its 17 school districts.)

The report was accepted unanimously on Tuesday by lawmakers on the committee, including two from Northern Nevada. No one spoke in opposition to the report. But details of the recommendations will be discussed at an Aug. 28 meeting.

“At this point, any change that takes money away from Washoe schools would be something I could not support,” said Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, who served on the committee.

He said since Clark County pushed for the study and helped raise the money to fund it, its conclusion is “no surprise.”

Indeed, Clark County School District helped pay for the $125,000 study, along with money raised from Las Vegas casinos.

Committee Chairman Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, said Las Vegas has an “incredibly diverse” population. Students speak over 145 languages in the district, according to the report.

Jay Chambers, senior research fellow at American Institutes of Research, stressed to the committee that the report only presented options to the state. It was up to the Legislature to make final decisions.

Jeff Zander, superintendent of Elko County School District, said there is widespread concern outside of Las Vegas about the study.

“It’s a fixed pool of money,” he said. “If you make changes to the formula, there are going to be winners and losers.”

Zander said the existing formula can be adjusted without completely remaking it.

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  1. Let me get this straight. Funding will be transferred from naturally born American children so kids who speak 144 languages other than English will be "better" served? Have we gone completely nuts? Since its inception, the U.S. has had a policy wherebye immigrants (and their rug-rats) are required to learn the English language in order to become naturalized citizens and to do so on their own. Now, we're going to further stretch our resources to favor immigrants? Some who may not even be in this country legally? I repeat: have we gone completely nuts?

  2. I always find it amusing when rural communities, that are mostly Republican, whine about funding, welfare, and the like. They don't realize rural Americans are the welfare queens. Electricity, phone, broadband, cellular, education, airports, mail service, roads, etc. are all subsidized.

    They cry about living within your means, but when any of their subsidies is threatened they howl.

    End all unequal funding formulas and institute 'home rule'. Seems easy to me; divide total students by total education funding and THAT is your per-pupil funding. Clark County gets back less than 60 cents from the State for every dollar it sends to Carson City.

  3. Mr. Schwartz: you obviously have NO IDEA of K-12 conditions in rural Nevada. Abysmal. Washoe County, Carson City, Elko County do OK but the rest of Nevada lacks the "economies of scale." When your funding is based on per pupil and you don't have enough students in a grade level, say 9 kids in grade 8, there isn't much you can do--except mix the grade levels. That's OK for electives but not the basics.
    Mr. Fink: You're catching on. Illegal invaders are DESTROYING OUR WAY OF LIFE. All our government programs are threatened.... We don't focus defense spending on SECURING our borders but we waste trillions on overseas rat holes.

  4. teacher: stop the lies. CCSD is about $13K-$15K per pupil--total funding not just DSA. Esmeralda gets mining money rather than endless bond issues on property taxes. Esmeralds does not have the economies of scale CCSD has.

  5. Illegal invaders? I suspect Native Americans felt the same way as white settlers, secure in their belief that it was their God-given duty as Christians to push westward and force redemption upon (or kill) anyone in their way. Native Hawaiians and the indigenous people of Alaska were also the victims of white Americans' belief in manifest destiny, as were Mexicans whose homeland was lost to them in the Mexican-American War. All that aside, please note in the article that the Clark County School District is trying to meet the language needs of students speaking over 145 different languages, obviously not all "illegal invaders" from south of the border. I truly doubt that rural counties, or even Washoe for that matter, are faced with such a challenge. Yet, due to the outdated, socialistic manner in which our state divvies up the DSA, Clark County continually comes up short when the state writes checks for education. Perhaps those whining legislators in the rurals, most of whom signed the ridiculous Taxpayer Protection Pledge, would like it better if a 51st U.S. state were to be created... the State of Southern Nevada! We might just be a lot better off if we didn't have to share our wealth with 16 ne'er-do-well counties to the north!

  6. Don't like immigrants & incessantly state that anyone that contradicts you is lying? Congratulations! You have an opinion that the majority of intelligent people disagree with, but hey you still have a right to your opinion. (It's not based in reality, but you still have a right to have it.)
    We just need you to recognize that those immigrants are not leaving, are increasing in numbers faster than you are, and pay taxes just like you do. We know you won't, but we still need you to because otherwise we just roll our eyes at you and think you're stupid!

  7. 57% of Mexican invaders are receiving American social welfare benefits. They are NOT paying taxes. They are adding to the costs of law enforcement, courts, incarceration, K-12, health care, free housing via local programs paid via federal grants....endless programs. Sure, Mexico and Mexicans have problems. You want to take on the expenses of everyone who has problems? Are you willing to fore-go a retirement, college for your kids and grand kids so we can keep paying for illegals. We do not have to keep them here. Enforce sanctions on employers and they will leave.

  8. As Tanker mentions, Esmeralda has limited options for high school. Most of the kids drop out--can't handle the bus ride to Tonopah. 2-3 hours each way. Sure you could drop the whole district into one school but the kids don't live in Clark County. Maybe they have a chance with online high school. A continuing shame that Nevada does not provide a real opportunity for students to graduate. Eureka CSD gets the mining money.

  9. Vegas money needs to stay in Vegas.

    Vegas needs it to pay for our own communities.

    All the conservatives, libertarians, and tea partiers who scream about tightening the belt and paying your own bills . . . NEED TO START DOING THAT.

    Vegas is tired of paying for this rural welfare state.

    Greg Brower hides, hoards, and stashes money - Vegas money. Greg Brower, you and yours, need to get a real job and pay your own bills.

  10. I would actually rather tax mining so we could ALL have enough and to spare but the same people protecting mining - are the same people living off Las Vegas welfare.

  11. We already pay TOO MUCH FOR K-12 in CCSD. Cut funding to CCSD. Again, Arizona gets high school GRADUATES who can read and write for about $1,000 a year LESS per student. CCSD has no excuse.