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School superintendents prepare to lobby Legislature on funding issues

Jackie Valley
Jackie Valley
EducationIndyBlog
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A policy document created by school district superintendents that outlines education priorities for the upcoming legislative session gained the Clark County School Board of Trustees’ approval Thursday night.

The board voted unanimously to approve a resolution supporting iNVest 2019, which seeks to answer this question: “What is needed to improve student achievement in Nevada?”

The Nevada Association of School Superintendents, with support from the state’s 17 elected school boards, have produced the biennial policy document since 2003. The idea behind it is to present a unified voice at the state Legislature when advocating for the needs of Nevada’s K-12 students.

The iNVest 2019 document lists the following five priorities heading into the legislative session:

    • Increase state funding on the K-12 basic support guarantee. The document notes that “if basic support had increased by a reasonable 2% per year since 2009, districts would be receiving an additional $465 per pupil or over $200 million more for students."
    • Provide stable funding that allows for longer-term planning. The iNVest 2019 document proposes that the solution is redirecting funds — such as the Initiative Petition 1 room tax money — that was originally intended for education back to the Distributive School Account, which is the main funding pot for K-12 education. The superintendents would also like to see a rainy day fund created for education.
    • Increase local control. Superintendents want schools to have more flexibility with categorical funds, which target certain at-risk populations, to reach all low-achieving students regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. In the process, they want to do away with the “paperwork and red tape” associated with categorical funds that ultimately reduce instructional time.
    • Protect school districts’ ending-fund balances by passing legislation that prevents them from being part of collective bargaining negotiations.
    • Create budgets in partnership. An ongoing complaint in the education sphere is that school districts must create their budgets before the Legislature finalizes the state’s per-pupil funding. Superintendents would like to see more communication between the state and local school districts during the budgeting process and perhaps a modification of budgeting timelines.

“This document is by no means the end all and be all of everything,” Trustee Carolyn Edwards said. “It is really a starting point for a different conversation with the Legislature.”

The document, for instance, does not address the weighted funding formula, which would push more per-pupil money to students with extra needs. The superintendents decided not to include anything about the weighted funding formula because they haven’t seen any bill drafts on the subject and want to make sure it doesn’t inadvertently harm any school districts, said Brad Keating, who works in the district’s governmental affairs office.

Jana Pleggenkuhle, a project facilitator for the district’s student services division, advised the board and administrators to be “relentless” in Carson City next year.

“If we’re not up there in their faces in the Legislature, it’s not going to change,” she said.

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