The Board of Examiners on Tuesday voted to use $1.679 million from the Interim Finance Contingency Fund to make Washoe and Carson City school districts whole, fixing an error Gov. Brian Sandoval said was the state’s fault and shorted those school districts per pupil money they are entitled to.
The problem was caused by how students who registered for “virtual” charter school classes — taken online rather than in person — were accounted for and funded. The problem is a large number of students who registered for classes offered by virtual charter schools in Washoe and Carson City didn’t actually live in those two school districts. They lived in counties across the state.
But when the state paid school districts the per pupil amounts for those students, they paid to the county school districts those students actually lived in, not to the districts and schools actually providing the classes.
That meant Washoe in particular but also Carson school district were being shorted their fair per pupil payments from the state.
In Carson City’s case, the shortage was just $7,612. But for Washoe, the total was $1,671,527 for a district that’s already millions short of its projected actual costs.
“I feel if we made an error, we should make it right,” said Sandoval. “This isn’t throwing a bone to Washoe County to give them something they would not otherwise be entitled to. Washoe County has been penalized to the tune of $1.6 million.”
Superintendent of Education Steve Canavero told the board the other 15 school districts, in effect, got more money than they were entitled to under the funding formula. But Sandoval said the plan is to take the cash out of the contingency fund because those districts have already spent that cash and it wouldn’t be right to retroactively dock their budgets by demanding payback.
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, however, said if those other districts got more than they were entitled to, they should pay it back.
Canavero said the problem is the Legislative Counsel Bureau has been arguing the contingency fund isn’t the legally appropriate funding source for this payment and may argue against using contingency funds when the issue comes before the Interim Finance Committee.
Chief of Staff Mike Willden said they’re still discussing that issue.