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Nevada lawmakers unveil education funding plan

Bill could be first major change in half-century
Posted: 6:01 PM, May 13, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-14 01:35:55Z

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — After months of anticipation, Nevada lawmakers unveiled a new education funding bill aimed at leveling the playing field for students throughout the state.

SB543 was introduced just three weeks before the end of the legislative session, with many educators and lawmakers getting their first look at the potentially historic legislation Monday.

"Overall it is a step in the right direction," John Vellardita, Executive Director of the Clark County Education Association said. "This is a plan that has no new money and asking us to wait two more years."

The bill's authors have long said the new education funding formula would not increase the size of the pie for a public school in the state but rather change the way that pie is split.

Vellardita said one thing that concerns him is the proposed wait to use the new formula.

"We are not interested in two years from now, doing something new," Vellardita said. "Who is to say two years from now there isn't reviewed by a new legislature."

The Clark County School District sent a statement on the bill saying: "CCSD strongly supports this plan in concept. We look forward to looking at the details to ensure there is sufficient flexibility to address the needs of students in each district."

The district also detailing three significant concerns the bill addresses including education funding transparency, ensuring new money for public education stays in public education and providing additional funding for students who need more support.

The statement from the district also cautioned that it didn't come with funding.

"While this is historic legislation, it's critical to note that this bill will change the actual formula used to distribute education funds in Nevada. It will not provide additional funding to education, and implementation will not start until the 2021-22 school year," Superintendent Jesus Jara said in the statement. "This bill does not address the current need for more funding to provide raises to our hard-working employees. We know that our state needs to make significant investments in education over the coming years."

While saying he was still waiting to read the bill minutes after it was introduced, Governor Steve Sisolak said he is working to find the money for education.

"We hope that we will get through this legislative session with funding in place that will address the educational needs," Sisolak said.

That funding could be critical for CCSD as the union representing teachers, CCEA, recently received approval to strike in the fall if lawmakers do not provide funding for classroom resources and promised pay raises.

"There is no way we are going to go three straight years with budget cuts in 360 schools, larger classes, fewer resources and a third year where teachers are taking pay freezes," Vellardita said. "If this session ends and there is not enough money into the schools, and these teachers don't get what they are promised, there is going to be a strike in the fall."

The governor said he is working to find that funding as he talks with legislators every day.