K-12, higher education do OK in state budget | RecordCourier.com

K-12, higher education do OK in state budget

by Geoff Dornan
R-C Capital Bureau

Both K-12 and higher education did well in the 2019 Legislature.

Altogether, K-12 education is funded at $8 billion over the coming biennium and the Nevada System of Higher Education’s budgets total a bit more than $2 billion — both record funding amounts.

The K-12 total budget is $741 million more than the current education budget, the majority of which, $6.7 billion, is in the Distributive School Account. That’s the account that funds per pupil basic support along with class size reduction and special education.

The state guarantees an overall average of $6,218 per student in 2020 and $6,288 in 2021. With local money from the Local School Support Tax and school property tax is added in, total per student support is more than $10,000 a year for the nearly half million students in Nevada.

In addition, the state puts millions more into programs including the Zoom and Victory schools, Read by Grade 3, Jobs for America’s Graduates and other programs. In addition, there’s $69.6 million a year in the New Nevada Education Plan program that grants $1,200 to each eligible student to improve specific educational needs for English Language Learners and poorer students. Altogether, there’s about $1.3 billion in so-called categorical funding in the K-12 budget but outside of the DSA.

Lawmakers added $1 million a year to the Career and Technical Education program for a total of $13.5 million a year. They added $1 million more each year to the Adult Education program for $19.3 million annually.

They added $11.2 million in each year to the Read By Grade Three program for a total of $31.7 million a year. That will pay to hire 141 more staff and provide a learning strategist in each of the state’s 406 elementary schools.

Overall, lawmakers added $13.22 million to hire more social workers and mental health professionals to the schools along with a total of $7.25 million to hire more resource officers and police for the schools.

The budget includes enough money to fund 3 percent pay raises for teachers statewide. That’s on top of the 2 percent statutory pay hikes they get every session. The money was included primarily in SB551, the bill that extended the higher Modified Business Tax rate originally scheduled to drop back down July 1. That decision raised $16.5 million of the school safety funding. The bill also raised more than $72 million for teacher pay and $9.5 million to continue the Opportunity Scholarships program.

Nevada System of Higher Education funding is almost 11 percent more than the current budget. That consists of $1.4 billion in state funds and nearly three-quarters of a billion in student tuition, fees and other revenues. The total is more than $2.15 billion for the biennium.

The system requested $40.7 million for capacity growth at the two universities and Desert Research Institute. Lawmakers agreed to support $19.75 million for capacity at Nevada State College and the community colleges but cut the capacity funding for the two universities.

Ways and Means Chair Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, said those small institutions provide vital Career and Technical Education programs to students.

Western Nevada College will get $1.24 million for funding to expand the Jump Start program providing college classes to high school students and to expand the Fallon nursing program.

Lawmakers continued the “small institution funding” for Western Nevada College and Great Basin College. That money recognizes fixed administrative costs are difficult for small institutions to cover through fee revenues. Western Nevada will get $822,960 and Great Basin $1.42 million to cover those costs.

In addition, higher education claimed the lion’s share of the roughly $300 million capital improvement projects budget — a total of $162.1 million. That includes $70.7 million for the health sciences building at the College of Southern Nevada, $55.8 million for Nevada State College education building and $20 million to jump start the UNLV engineering building project. Western Nevada got some help as well — $105,193 to refurbish Marlette Hall.

Finally, the governor and lawmakers agreed to pump $33 million into the Millennium Scholarship program to keep it alive.