The outcome of an extensive effort to update Nevada’s 52-year-old funding formula is looking increasingly uncertain as the bill has not crossed major hurdles with less than 30 hours left in the session.
Asked Sunday if the funding formula bill SB543 would survive after passing the Senate on an 18-3 vote, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said she couldn’t comment on the situation. Gov. Steve Sisoak’s office also declined to comment on the record. Senate Finance Chair Joyce Woodhouse and bill sponsor Sen. Mo Denis said they’re working on it.
“We’ve known that there’s some concerns that folks have so we’re trying to adjust those. That stuff just kind of bubbles up at the end,” Denis said. “It’s over in the Assembly so we can’t control everything that goes on over there, but we’ve kept everyone in the loop as to what’s going on and I think people — the more that they read it and understand it, they understand it’s a good bill.”
Sources say Assembly members are concerned about the “maintenance of effort” provision in the bill, which specifies that the governor must propose in his or her budget an increase in the general fund contribution to education that keeps up with both enrollment growth and inflation, or is proportional to the overall growth in the economy — whichever is greater. The bill includes an exception for economic downturns.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson directed questions to Senate leadership.
“I know we’re in consultation with the Senate to see where they want to go and what we’re able to get accomplished and ultimately what the sponsors of the bill do with the bill,” he said. “We want to increase funding for public education in a way that I think is within our means and so we’re going to continue to have conversations about what is adequate and make sure it’s distributed in a way that doesn’t hurt kids throughout the state.”
Two weeks ago, Sisolak issued a statement applauding Denis for introducing the bold bill but did not commit to approving it as-is.
“Everyone can agree that we must take bold steps to improve our education system, and that must start with addressing a decades-old formula that no longer meets the needs of our state,” he said. “In the coming days, I look forward to working with the legislature to review this bill, with the goal of ultimately taking an important step toward much-needed structural education reform.”
The funding formula proposal, which was long in the works but only publicly unveiled late in the session, passed the Senate late last month with three Republican senators from rural districts in opposition. It is now languishing in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, where it has yet to receive a committee vote. Frierson, asked when the bill would move, said that the Assembly is still working through all its bills with a little more than a day to go until the end of the session.
“When they’re ready to be heard, I think that’s when we’ll schedule them,” Frierson said.