Schools in Nevada are getting a little boost in funding as part of a new weighted student formula. The program seeks to put more money behind students needing additional resources. Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick sat down with our education reporter Paul Boger to find out what the program could mean for schools in Nevada.
Let’s start off with the basic premise, what is a weighted-funding formula.
Yeah, so the concept behind a weighted formula, at its core, basically states that it costs more money to teach students who have greater needs like those in special education, who come from more impoverished backgrounds or are English language learners. So schools should get extra money to teach those students.
You know, this is a move you’re seeing more and more around the country. And it’s more in line with what education and budget writers want to see. And when lawmakers here were discussing it, it garnered a lot of support. Heck, the governor even referred to it as a unique opportunity to invest directly in students.
Democratic Senator Mo Denis of Las Vegas says the program has the potential to really bring students in need of additional resources more in line with their counterparts.
“What this bill did was provide some money now for the next two years which gets resources to schools that are lowest achieving because that’s truly where we can really move the needle in education," says Denis. "If we help those kids in the bottom quartile than we all move up together.”
So, how much money is this program putting into schools this year?
On the grand scale of things? Not much. . .
In all, lawmakers put about $72 million into the formula statewide over the next two years or $36 million a year. Mind you that’s in addition to money already provided to schools under the current funding system.
That breaks down to about 12-hundred dollars a school year for every eligible student in the state.
But you have to remember; this money is dedicated to specific students. So school districts with greater numbers of special needs students or children living in poverty or learning English are going to get a greater piece of the pie.
That means Clark County is getting the biggest portion of the cash, more than $34 million to be exact.
Washoe County, the next largest district in the state, is only getting about $380,000 in additional revenue.
And rural districts like Lyon County are only getting $8,400 in weighted-funding this year because they only have a few students that meet the criteria set forward in the law.
That’s probably enough to buy a few computers or learning tools for those students, but it’s not enough to pay a new teacher or anything like that.
Ultimately, what does this new funding mean for schools in Northern Nevada? Is this going to fix the problems in special education or close the achievement gap?
That’s a great question. At this point, you’re probably not going to see a whole lot of movement, at least not at first.
If left in its current form, it’ll likely take years before you see direct improvements at least here in Northern Nevada. I mean in all, we are only getting about 1.8 million dollars for the entire program. That’s not a lot of money when it comes to K-12 education.
It’s not a secret that poor students, children with special needs, at-risk students NEED additional resources, and at the end of the day resources mean cash. So that being said any additional cash is a good step forward.
Now, if lawmakers decided this is the direction they want the state to go they are going to need to put their full force into it. Meaning, the state’s current funding mechanism is not adequate to support a weighted formula.
According to even conservative estimates, it would cost the state an additional billion dollars in revenue to implement a fully weighted funding formula statewide.
And it seems at this point, lawmakers have no desire to pull the trigger on a new major tax increase.