Schools chief: Per-pupil funding will be lower |

Schools chief: Per-pupil funding will be lower

Associated Press Writer

Despite a slight increase approved by lawmakers in the state’s base per-pupil spending for K-12 students, Nevada’s public education chief said Tuesday that school districts actually will have less money per pupil for the upcoming fiscal year.

State schools chief Keith Rheault said the extra state dollars will fill shortfalls resulting from lower estimates for both local taxes on property and sales, which along with the state-guaranteed money fund the dollar amount that Nevada spends per pupil.

Legislators approved a figure of $5,251 to be spent per K-12 student for the upcoming fiscal year, $38 more than the 2008-2009 figure of $5,213. Rheault called the increase “a little deceptive” because the state had to come up with $329 million to make up for the reduced projections in local taxes.

“When you look at the overall picture for both the state guaranteed amount and local revenue, school districts will have less money per pupil this 2009-10 fiscal year than that of the 2008-09 fiscal year,” Rheault said.

Rheault said he met Monday with local school superintendents who are planning cost-cutting measures that may include increased class sizes, negotiating reduced salaries and leaving positions unfilled.

“In general, the public may see slight increases in class sizes in middle and high schools but nothing too drastic,” Rheault said, adding that districts “should be able to maintain the academics provided this past two years.”

Though school officials are concerned about funding for the upcoming school year, Rheault said they are more worried about fiscal 2010-2011 because projected revenues and inflation costs may lead to further cut backs. For fiscal year 2010-2011, lawmakers approved $5,395 in per-pupil support.

“They are leery about the economy,” Rheault said. “It is much harder to cut after budgets have been passed.”

Education budgets also were hurt because funding wasn’t continued by legislators for a school remediation trust fund, which had $78 million for the current two-year budget cycle that ends June 30.

Rheault said the fund was designed to encourage student achievement in math, English and science. Grants from the fund allowed schools to pay for things such as after-school programs and extra tutoring to help students.

Parent participation is important given remediation program cuts and reductions, Rheault said, adding, “It would be important that schools work even more with parents as best they can and that parents get involved in student learning.”

As far as the education budget the 2011 Legislature will consider, Rheault said school officials are “apprehensive” because of sunsets placed on funding sources approved by lawmakers and the lack of federal stimulus dollars available on a one-shot basis this year.

But, he added, “They are focusing on what was funded currently for this (2009-11) biennium. They can’t look ahead yet.”