Schools funding not nearly as far behind as reported | NevadaAppeal.com

Schools funding not nearly as far behind as reported

Contrary to published reports, Nevada doesn’t need to add $1.3 billion a year to education budgets for the next decade to meet No Child Left Behind mandates.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said the consultant’s report presented earlier this week to lawmakers studying the adequacy of education funding shows Nevada’s current $2.23 billion public schools budget is only about $79.6 million below where it should be under the consultants’ “Successful schools” model.

She said if Nevada immediately adopted all the programs recommended to meet No Child Left Behind requirements that take effect in 2014, it would cost $1.3 billion.

“But $1.3 billion more a year? That’s crazy,” she said.

She said consultant John Augenblick and his staff recommended implementing full-day kindergarten, pre-school and after-school programs, expanded English-language-learning programs, Saturday school for those who need it and career-tech classes, as well as greatly expanded special-education offerings.

Those programs, he said, would help Nevada meet federal proficiency requirements by 2014. Current rules require 50 percent of students meet those standards.

She said Augenblick and his staff told the committee that will require Nevada raise public school spending to more than $4.45 billion. But, she said, that increase is spread over those nine years, not all at once.

To get from the current $2.3 billion to that number, Smith said consultants suggested lawmakers either raise spending 7.3 percent a year or add $438 million a year to the existing budget.

“I keep telling people, this is the beginning. It isn’t the end of something and doesn’t even suggest we would do anything like that in a one-year period,” Smith said. “And I hate to talk about that end number because that’s provided you accept everything in the study. There’s a lot of discussion needed.”

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.