Nevada Commission on School Funding working on formula |

Nevada Commission on School Funding working on formula

Jessica Garcia

Nevada’s Commission on School Funding gradually is progressing on its task to review the state’s per-pupil funding formula, taking into account those factors and impacts to small districts and rural schools that could make them more expensive to run and considering cost of living around Nevada.

At its February meeting, the 11-member commission took public comment from government officials, educators, parents and students via teleconference between the Nevada Department of Education’s offices in Carson City and Las Vegas offering suggestions to revise the state’s K-12 funding formula as the state moves away from the Nevada Plan to the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan.

The state continues to struggle finding an adequate figure for its per-pupil spending amount and has leaned on the support of studies provided by Augenblick, Palaich and Associates. According to a 2018 study done by Augenblick, Nevada should be spending $9,238 per student to be considered adequate. In January, Carson City School District CFO Andrew Feuling shared with the local school board that the current per-pupil amount this year is $7,184.

Feuling, a member of the Commission, said part of the complex nature of the issue is for districts to show that funds are following students into smaller school districts the way they’re intended, and it’s difficult for the state’s two larger districts, Clark and Washoe, to argue they might need funds for their own smaller schools as well. Clark County, for example, Feuling noted, has to overcome many presumptions that it’s merely an urban district filled with mostly larger Las Vegas schools.

Superintendent Jesus Jara provided public comment on Feb. 20 at the Commission’s meeting, citing that 70 percent of the state’s students live in Clark, he said, but all school districts have “very real, very immediate challenges.”

“Adequacy does not distinguish between large and small, rural and urban,” Jara said in Las Vegas at the meeting. “The plight is remarkable … and few realize I’m superintendent of the fourth largest rural school district in the state.”

The commission is working to define the weights, determining which students need more support and building the models, and these each take into a number of complicated questions of their own, Feuling said. The larger group divided itself into two groups examining formula and distribution with the other researching monitoring and reporting. Both have two objectives, and they’re each led by Humboldt County School District Superintendent David Jensen and City of Henderson CFO Jim McIntosh.

Other developments continue to impact the state’s efforts to fund education. A lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the First Judicial District Court in Carson City by a parents’ group against the Nevada Department of Education, School Superintendent Jhone Ebert and the Nevada State Board of Education charging Nevada’s failure to provide the necessary funding for public schools. The lawsuit claims officials and educators have hindered schoolchildren’s access to a proper education and did not adhere to recommendations provided by studies set forth by Augenblick, Palaich and Associates that have suggested minimum per-pupil amounts for adequacy in efforts to change from the 1967 Nevada Plan to the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan.