Las Vegas Sun

August 23, 2019

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Education funding formula bill passes state Senate

CARSON CITY — A massive education funding formula overhaul passed through the Senate Wednesday, heading to the Assembly with less than a week left in the Nevada Legislature.

The bill — Senate Bill 543 — would replace the Nevada Plan, the state’s 52-year-old funding formula, with the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan, shifting the plan to weighted funding in which students with distinct needs receive a higher per-pupil amount.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, choked up at the end of his presentation on the bill, calling it an incredibly important measure.

“I know we do important things here,” he said. “But this is one of those things that is going to change people’s lives for generations. We know that our children are our future. I believe that this will start something that will help us as we move forward.”

Support among Senate Republicans varied, with those from the more rural districts generally not supporting the bill because it would essentially be a revenue freeze in the foreseeable future for small-town schools. The bill contains a hold-harmless clause, in which schools can never receive a lower amount of funding than they received in the current fiscal year.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, touted the achievements made by past programs with categorical funding — an example would be Victory schools, which provide more money to lower-performing schools in high-poverty districts — and called this the next step forward.

“This bill is the next logical step in those goals of closing achievement gaps and giving every student the opportunity to succeed and truly elevating Nevada’s education system,” he said.

Minority Leader James Settlemeyer, R-Minden, spoke out against the bill, expressing concerns it could hurt smaller districts. The bill also came under fire from the Nevada State Education Association, one of the state’s largest teachers’ unions, when it was introduced for not allocating any new funding toward education.

But Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, said new money would do little good without a revamped funding formula.

“No one bill, as we know in this building, will address every function of every issue that we have,” she said. “And what this bill does that is critical to the idea of whether or not we would put extra funding at any point in time … into education, is that the structure where that money goes ensures the money goes where it needs to go.”

She called funding without a structure ensuring the money is distributed in a fair way “immaterial”

The bill passed 18-3 with Sens. Settlemeyer, Pete Goicochea, R-Eureka, and Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, opposing the measure.

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