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September 17, 2014

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CCSD joins broad campaign calling for new school funding formula

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Paul Takahashi

A reading tutor works with English-language learner students as Clark County Schools Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky looks on at a Zoom Reading Center on Wednesday, October 23, 2013, at Lunt Elementary School.

The Clark County School Board unanimously passed a joint resolution tonight, joining school boards and superintendents across Nevada in calling for a change in the way the state distributes education funding to its 17 school districts.

Nevada’s K-12 funding formula, called the “Nevada Plan,” has long been criticized for shortchanging schools in Clark County, which generates the most tax revenue yet receives the least per-pupil funding in the state.

An interim legislative committee is now looking at revising the formula, which has been largely unchanged since it was adopted in 1967. The committee has proposed providing 50 percent more per-pupil funding for challenging student groups, including non-English-speaking, special needs and impoverished children.

This proposed change, if passed in the next legislative session, is expected to shift more funding to Clark County.

“The new formula must include weighted funding for those students who face roadblocks to learning,” the resolution states.

The resolution, which was drafted by Clark County in concert with other school districts, criticizes the Nevada Plan for simply redistributing inadequate funding. It points out that “funding levels for public education in Nevada consistently rank among the lowest in the nation.”

Nevada’s per-pupil spending ranks ranks 49th nationally, according to Education Week. The Silver State spends on average $8,454 per student, which is about $3,000 less than the national average, according to the magazine.

Unlike some states, school boards and superintendents in Nevada don’t have the ability to generate school funding by raising taxes, and cannot protect what state funding they receive. Since the recession, the Legislature has taken more than $300 million in surplus property tax revenues earmarked for Clark County schools to fund other state initiatives.

The resolution calls on the Legislature to “take all revenues collected from Nevada citizens intended to fund public education and allocate them for that purpose only.”

Despite low funding levels and the lack of new money for education, the Legislature has passed more than a dozen unfunded education mandates, School Board members said. These mandates, which raise student expectations and standards, require additional teacher training, updated technology and new classroom materials, they said.

The resolution urges lawmakers to recognize “the actual costs” of these mandates and to fund them properly. It calls on the state to provide “adequate base funding” for education, but it makes no reference to a November ballot measure that aims to raise taxes for education.

The “Education Initiative” would impose a 2 percent margins tax on Nevada corporations making more than $1 million in revenue a year.

Proponents of the tax — primarily teachers union leaders — estimate it would raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year in additional funding for Nevada schools.

Critics argue the new tax revenue from the initiative isn’t guaranteed to be earmarked for schools. They also fear the business tax would stifle the state’s sluggish economic recovery.

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