Lawmakers in the Nevada Senate are advancing a bill that could totally overhaul the way the state pays for public K-12 education. Senate Bill 543 would move the state away from the 52-year-old Nevada Plan to what’s called a weighted student formula. To breakdown what that means and how the shift could affect education for years to come, KUNR’s Paul Boger spoke with Zahava Stadler, the Policy Director for Ed-Build, a national non-profit that studies the way states pay for schools.
“There are about 29 states that use a primarily student-focused school funding formula. What that means is some version of what’s being proposed right now in Nevada. [It’s] a base amount or core amount per pupil that says if you are a student with no special challenges you are funded at this level," Stadler explained, "and then some additional way of adjusting that funding upwards for students that faces additional challenges or have special needs. That’s the kind of thing that’s being considered here. It is quite common nationally.”
Despite that effort to move toward a funding plan that’s becoming commonplace around the country, Nevada’s proposed change is drawing some criticism. Under SB543, funding for the state’s two largest districts would increase; however, the plan would hold funding for rural districts at current levels for several years. Stadler says that’s a fairly unusual provision.
“As it stands now, Nevada doesn’t have any increased funding for sparse districts or rural districts or necessarily small schools, and that actually places it quite in the minority. There are 34 states out there that have some kind of funding for rural, remote, isolated or small schools or districts," she said. "The fact that Nevada does not have any such funding despite how much of the territory in the state would fall in that category is somewhat surprising.”