Advocates: Time to Leave Vouchers Behind
Las Vegas, Nevada, February 9, 2017 – Nevada is last in the nation in providing additional funding to public school children most in need, according to the sixth edition of “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card” (NRC), released last month by the Education Law Center (ELC). ELC is a founding partner of Educate Nevada Now (ENN), a campaign of parents, teachers and advocates to advance reform of Nevada’s broken and outmoded method of financing public education.
The NRC sixth edition is based on 2014 census data, the most recent available.
The NRC results again underscore the urgency for the Nevada Legislature to replace the out-of-date Nevada Plan with a new formula weighted to deliver extra resources to the growing numbers of low-income students and English language learners.
Nevada’s school funding level ranks 42nd overall among the states and ranks dead last in distributing additional funding to address concentrated student poverty across the state.
Nevada also makes a very low fiscal effort to invest in public education, even while the state doles out lucrative tax breaks to corporations and to build sports stadiums.
The bottom line remains unchanged: Nevada public school finance again ranks among the most unfair and inequitable to students in the U.S.
Nevada again received an “F” grade on funding distribution. Under the Nevada Plan formula – which dates back to 1967, but is still in use today – high poverty districts receive on average only about 71 cents for each dollar their wealthier counterparts receive. This funding disparity often leaves students in higher poverty schools without the qualified teachers, support staff and programs needed to succeed in school.
Nevada’s public school per pupil funding is still among the lowest in the nation. Nevada continues to rank in the bottom ten states.
Nevada also receives an “F” for fiscal effort, measured as the proportion of the state’s economic productivity invested in public education.
The NRC results underscore why Nevada lawmakers need to keep vouchers off the agenda in the upcoming biennium session. In September, the Nevada Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the unlimited Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher law because it would have drained public schools of millions of already scarce funds. While Governor Sandoval has proposed resurrecting private school vouchers with a separate $60 million appropriation, many lawmakers have made clear they want to leave vouchers off the table to focus on school funding reform.
“This Report Card once again shines a light on how the funding of Nevada’s public schools shortchanges students, especially those at risk due to family and neighborhood poverty,” said David Sciarra, Executive Director of ELC. “The results also confirm that the Nevada Plan – the state’s outmoded funding formula – does not deliver the teachers, support staff and other resources necessary for a high quality education. We hope the Report Card results will serve as an urgent wake-up call for lawmakers to put school funding reform at the top of the education agenda in the 2017 legislative session.”
“The Report Card makes clear that public school children need every dollar the Nevada Legislature currently allocates for their education in the biennium budget,” said Sylvia Lazos, Policy Director of Educate Nevada Now, powered by The Rogers Foundation. “This is why private school vouchers pose an urgent threat to public education in Nevada. They will divert millions from stretched and insufficient public school budgets to private schools and other private uses, depleting the resources essential to afford every student the opportunity to succeed.”
First issued in 2010, the award-winning NRC is based on the principle that fair school funding is an essential precondition for equal educational opportunity in the 50 states. Fair funding is also necessary to improve opportunity and outcomes in the nation’s public schools. The NRC is designed to shine a spotlight on the urgent need for states to provide sufficient funding that is fairly distributed to address the particular needs of students, including English language learners and students with disabilities.
The NRC evaluates states on four separate, but interrelated, fairness indicators – funding level, funding distribution, state fiscal effort, and public school coverage.
Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card is coauthored by Dr. Bruce Baker of the Rutgers Graduate School of Education; David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center (ELC); Dr. Danielle Farrie, ELC Research Director; Monete Johnson, ELC Research Associate; and Theresa Luhm, Esq., ELC Managing Director. For the complete report, please visit: www.schoolfundingfairness.org
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