Members of the money committees on Wednesday balked at the plan to put $8 million in federal COVID-19 funding into the Donor’s Choose Internet platform after being told that organization would get more than $1 million of the funding in overhead costs.
The goal of the funding plan was to provide funding of up to $800 per project for up to 10,000 projects designed and sought by teachers across the state to pay for classroom needs not covered in the regular budget.
Deputy Superintendent of Education Heidi Haartz confirmed that, after the overhead is deducted, the actual money available for teachers would be $6.8 million out of the $8 million.
“The administrative costs really do stack up,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.
On top of those costs, he pointed out that not having the school districts or department buy the materials for teacher projects directly would mean paying sales taxes on those materials.
“We’re at 20 percent on overhead really fast,” he said.
He was joined by Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert and Assemblyman Tom Roberts.
“It might be worth investing in a couple of people at the Department of Education, using staff basically to run something like that,” she said.
“It seems like a little more effort we’d be able to get more money in the classroom,” said Roberts.
Several other members of the committees raised concerns about who decides which teacher projects get funding after Education Superintendent Jhone Ebert said the department would “set the rubric, the parameters” for awarding funding but not actually decide who gets the money.
In the end, at the suggestion of staff, members of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees voted to put the $8 million in reserve while education officials and other stakeholders work out a way to get the money to teachers without such high administrative costs. Education would then have to come before the Interim Finance Committee to get the $8 million.
That vote was unanimous.
The discussion came up during a discussion of the roughly $1.3 billion in federal stimulus money coming to Nevada’s K-12 education system. That includes more than $700 million in American Rescue Plan Act money along with more than $450 million in CARES Act money.