Lawmakers leery of school-penalty plan

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Lawmakers are challenging plans to move part of the university system’s budget to a system that penalizes campuses for performing poorly with some arguing the formula doesn’t do much.

“I have concern about your all-stick/no-carrot approach,” said Assemblyman Andy Eisen, D-Las Vegas.

He added that the formula is built in such a way that “it would require an enormous change to see any real dollars.”

Eisen said he favors rewarding institutions for good performance.

“But it seems to me what we’re looking at here is significant work to track all this data, and the end result is for the institution to lose a tenth of a percent of budget,” he said.

The comment came during a discussion of the so-called performance pool, which would base part of each school’s budget on student performance — classes and credits completed.

Chancellor Dan Klaich said the plan is part of the new formula structure intended to base appropriations on classwork completed rather than simply credits taken by students, regardless of whether they finish with a passing grade. He said if an institution didn’t qualify for a portion of its budget because of performance issues, that money would come out of the campus’s budget.

Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, said he has a problem with how the formula works.

“If we have a department that’s performing well, we can say they need to be rewarded,” he said.

But, Aizley said, any funding that would be part of a reward is “going to come from a department that performs poorly that needs the funds to perform well.”

The crux of the issue is the need for more funding from outside the system to make the performance system work, he said.

Regents Chairman Jason Geddes said the committee that developed the plan agreed there should be more money but that the governor’s office didn’t give the system that option.

“We were given a flat budget instruction,” he said.

Geddes said Eisen is correct that the system doesn’t do much to any campus budget in the first year but that the system will bring the data it collects on performance to the next Legislature and try to show the importance of funding to cover the pool.

Klaich told lawmakers during the hearing that the problem is how to translate performance into dollars awarded to the different institutions.

“This performance pool is a carve-out,” he said. “But it’s a carve-out from budgets that have suffered significant reductions. We’re carving out 5 percent of budgets that have been severely hacked in the last two bienniums.” (sic)

The fundamental driver of the new formula system is how students do in classes, Klaich said. The goal is to encourage campuses to improve that performance, he said.


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