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Nevada Education: Where Will The Money Go?

Eric Westervelt/NPR

Students eat lunch at Robert Forbuss Elementary School in Las Vegas. The school, designed for 780 students, enrolls 1,230.


Just about everyone has long said the 52-year-old state education funding formula is outdated.

And now Democratic lawmakers in Carson City have developed a new funding formula.

Will the new one give more money to districts where more taxes are raised?

Clark County School District has for years asked for more proportional distribution of state education funds, saying it costs more to educate students in urban areas than rural ones.

Rural educators worry their funding might get cut.

Jeremy Aguero, a principal analyst with Applied Analysis who assisted on the bill, said Monday that no school district will get less money next year than it got last year under the plan.

"Every effort is being made to hold individual districts harmless at current funding levels," he said. The first step in addressing funding is to look at the formula, he said.

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, told KNPR's State of Nevada that it is past time to address the needs of students in the Nevada of today.

"I think that is imperative that we adapt to times and the change in the demographics of our state to better take care of the state and the kids in our public school system," Frierson said.

Frierson explained that there are two bills to address the funding formula. One is Senate Bill 543. It creates a new funding formula that will run as a mock example alongside the current existing formula to see where the money would flow if implemented. 

He said creating a mock formula first will allow lawmakers to make changes to it before implementing.

The bill will also require better accounting of where the money is flowing in the state, which Frierson said will show the state is actually closer to the national average on per-pupil spending than current data suggests.

The second bill is Assembly Bill 309, which is Frierson's bill.

He explained that his bill will address several structural problems with the way school money is distributed. For example, it would allow Clark County to create a separate account for teachers' salaries and not allow the district to take money out of that account to pay for other budget items.

The bill will also allow counties to raise tax dollars for education; however, those funds could only be used for certain aspects of education in a local area like preschool or adult education.

While those two bills address how the distribution of education money is structured in the state, they don't address the actual dollars in the education budget, Frierson said.

"At the end of the day, we all recognize that this solution is not going to come without dedicating more funding," he said, "This is one small piece of transitioning into a structure that will allow us to better track the money that we are investing and then invest more in public education."

He said it something that needs to be done. 

Frierson said as the budgeting process in Carson City comes to a close some areas of the state's budget may have to lose out to pay for public education but where the money in the state is distributed shows where the state's priorities are.

The Nevada State Education Association expressed strong disappointment to the proposal.

"Simply put, no new education funding plan will work without new and additional revenue," the union said in a statement. "This plan simply moves money from one area of Nevada to another, creating new winners and losers."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.