For twenty years, my students and I experienced the inequities of inadequate education funding through the Nevada plan, which had been unchanged since its inception in 1967. This plan ranked Nevada 45th ranked 50th in the nation in education funding, offering nearly $4,500 less per student than the national average, according to the Education Law Center. I found myself in everyday situations where I was challenged to respond effectively to the needs of my students. As a teacher in Nevada, I taught some of the largest class sizes in the country, attended countless meetings that took up time that should have been spent connecting with families, and had limited access to adequate resources such as work technology and enough chairs and desks. for each student.
In 2019, educators, students, and families celebrated legislators’ passage of a new education funding formula, commonly referred to as the Student-Centered Funding Plan (SB543). Now, this funding plan risks becoming another “bait and switch” for our education system. It is imperative that we, as education leaders and advocates, ensure that we are accountable to our students, their families, and our profession by addressing the following three action plans.
It is not certain that the increase in spending per student will meet the needs of our most vulnerable students. Part of the confusion over the allocation of funds is caused by the fact that the numbers are not comparable; the two plans do not allow for an apples-to-apples comparison. I have looked at several different sources (Nevada BDR 34-1169, Teaching-Certification, World Population Review) and have not been able to clearly discover the base expenditures per student as well as the weighted amounts (Nevada Department of Education ) for the current school year. To further complicate understanding, in late April 2022, the National Education Association (NEA) released a publication detailing a different set of spending per student figures for Nevada. With great frustration, I wonder, “What is the precise per-pupil expense allocation for Nevada students?”
According to Educate Nevada Now, “…a state-mandated private firm has developed a method that identifies factors for re-designation of at-risk individuals. But in conjunction with NDE, they have arbitrarily limited those factors in a way that that the state does not have to generate new revenue to implement the formula The number of students eligible for additional funding fell from 271,618 to just 66,674 – a 75% reduction in the number of students who will now receive resources. How will this new designation of ‘at risk’ ensure equity for every student in Nevada? As I reflect on this question, I am challenged to believe or convince any stakeholder in education – including students and families – that this change provides equitable access to an excellent education for our children.
It is critical that Nevada fund a cost-based, not budget-based formula that truly meets student needs. We must not leave vulnerable children behind. We have an ethical and moral obligation to implement “…school funding that fully funds education [and social] needs of children who [identify as] special education, gifted and talented students, students at risk and those learning English. When will we decide to effectively meet the needs of every student in our state? How do we decide which students will not have their needs met? These questions must be answered if we continue to choose not to fund education at full adequacy.
Year after year, it becomes exponentially more difficult to identify and describe what a strong and fair education looks like for every student, given our financial realities. We must fully commit to making investments in education that will ultimately benefit us all. When I am balanced and resourceful, I am able to see more clearly and give more fully. This is what our students deserve – and nothing less.
Jen Loescher is an educator and supports middle school math teachers. She is a senior policy researcher at Teach Plus Nevada.