Nevada's superintendent of education said Tuesday the state is stuck with the No Child Left Behind Act, even though the federal government hasn't kept its funding promises.
"The government played a little sham game with the money," said Keith Rheault in response to questions by Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas.
Despite promises to fund any costs generated by the law when it was passed, educators across the nation have charged federal money doesn't cover the tab. Titus noted several other states have threatened to pull out of the federal program and asked if Nevada had considered doing so.
Rheault said Nevada's funding under No Child Left Behind increased about $3 million. But that, he said, was accompanied by decreases in funding for educational technology, drug-free schools and other programs.
The net increase, he said, is about $1.6 million.
"But the way they wrote the law, they attached it to every federal funding for education," Rheault said.
He said the federal government could take back not only the limited funding but all the federal money under long-standing programs including Title 1.
Pulling out of No Child Left Behind, he said, would cost Nevada more than $200 million it now receives in federal education funding.
"When you explain how all the programs are tied to that money then I can understand why we wouldn't do that," said Titus.
The issue came up during discussion of the Distributive School Account - the largest budget in state government at more than $1.7 billion in general fund revenue over the next two years.
The account guarantees school districts a certain amount per pupil and is the primary public school funding mechanism. When sales and property tax revenues are added to the pot, the total in the account is more than $3.5 billion for the biennium.
Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, pointed out that, although Gov. Kenny Guinn funded several other programs outside the Distributive School Account, it is basically "flat" when compared to the current K-12 budget. Guinn's proposal increases per-student funding 1.6 percent, although inflation has been over 3 percent in the past year alone.
Among the expenses not contained in the account are Guinn's kindergarten- through sixth-grade initiative designed to help schools labeled as needing improvement create new programs for elementary school children. He has proposed $100 million over the biennium for that plan.
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