Las Vegas Sun

April 25, 2015

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Grave time for schools

Legislature should create education fund to tide districts over during bad times

Please set aside enough money so our schools can at least stay open.

It is unfortunate, but true, that this is the primary request being made to the 2009 Nevada Legislature by the state’s 17 school superintendents.

Since asked by then-Gov. Kenny Guinn in 2001 to cooperate on a unified education proposal for the 2003 legislative session, the superintendents have prepared for legislators a budgeting plan called “iNVest.”

In past years, the superintendents — hoping that Nevada’s total K-12 funding would someday approach the national average — have asked for large increases, confident the Legislature was in a position to approve at least some boost.

And it was, in those years.

The economy has gotten so bad, however, that the superintendents are just hoping cuts to their minimal budgets will not get any deeper.

As reported Tuesday by the Las Vegas Sun’s Emily Richmond, the first request in the superintendents’ plan this year is to “fully fund the base budget.” Translated, this means the superintendents’ main concern is that enough money is available for them to complete the scheduled school days for 2009 and 2010.

The best hope among superintendents is that sacrifices now will be recovered incrementally as the economy improves.

The near term looks bleak, however. The state budget for K-12 schools has already been cut by $173 million and Gov. Jim Gibbons is asking the 2009 Legislature to reduce the budget even more over the next two years.

Part of the problem is that the state, in good economic years, has not been depositing money in a contingency fund for education. The current iNVest plan recommends creating such a fund, as does the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.

Also supporting the idea of backstopping the regular education budget is Keith Rheault, Nevada’s superintendent of public instruction. “If we’d had a stabilization fund we probably wouldn’t be cutting anything right now,” he told Richmond.

We hope the Legislature approves such a fund during its coming session, which starts Monday. Education should not be subject to a boom-and-bust economy. Had such a fund been established years ago, the superintendents could be hoping for more than just keeping their doors open.

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