Carson City School Board members and administrators are keeping a watch on potential changes to Nevada’s education funding formula expected from the state Capitol, but planning for future impacts remains challenging.
Carson City School District Director of Fiscal Services Andrew Feuling reported at the board meeting on Feb. 12 there’s uncertainty as to whether Nevada’s legislators will adhere to the state’s previous funding model known as the Nevada Plan, in place since 1967, or approve a new version of it.
A study commissioned by the state Legislature was completed by Augenblick, Palaich and Associates on the adequacy of funding in the Silver State. Results showed funding has declined. Per-pupil funding for Carson City School District under the current Nevada Plan is $7,200. With student population on the rise, the study to determine what’s adequate to fund K-12 education and meet state and federal mandates examined what it would take to move toward a cost-based approach and away from historical expenses and lists three approaches, which the school board previously had examined at its January meeting.
For Carson, changing to a new model with these approaches, depending on what’s selected for adequacy, would adjust the per-pupil amount to $6,197, $9,238 or as much as $9,983 with adjustments to be taken into consideration for English Language Learner, special education or Gifted and Talented Education programs.
All in all, the Nevada Plan is considered inequitable compared to how other states fund education, Feuling said, because it disregards a number of unique needs facing the student population as a whole, such as ELL or GATE.
“Gauging the impact is really difficult because it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison how we’re funded,” Feuling told the board, going on to say, “This uncertainty we’re going through is the biggest change in education in 50 years and we virtually have no information from the (Nevada Department of Education).”
For now, there’s still no indication the Legislature will move away from the current Nevada Plan.
Feuling presented five different scenarios, based on the old and new models, but he cautioned the board any case means making assumptions. The trustees worried about what it could mean for making potential staffing cuts.
“I don’t know if we could forecast worst-case scenarios,” trustee Richard Varner said in response to Feuling’s presentation and asking for guidance. “I think we’ve got to plan on making some hard decisions and cuts. … The last thing we want to do is lay off teachers, but it’s a great possibility that we may have to make some cuts.”