|On the heels of the holiday weekend, our legislators were up in Carson City working hard to meet deadline day. Last Friday was the day on which bills have to come out of committee, or die. In the next few days, the bills that did not die will have to be voted out of either the Assembly or Senate. A handful of bills, are “exempt” from these rules, or were re-referred for further work and discussion.
To keep our readers informed, below are updates to some of the education bills we’ve been monitoring:
ZOOM and Victory
Senate Bill 390 to support the expansion of ZOOM schools and Assembly Bill 447 to expand Victory schools both are continuing in the legislative process. Over the biennium, Governor Sandoval has proposed investing a total $142 in ZOOM schools, and $60 million in the Victory program. This represents the largest investment Nevada has made in schools in neighborhoods that are high poverty, high ELL, and racially segregated. ELL children are also the demographic to most likely live in poverty, as 80% of ELL children also qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch.
The ZOOM bill was re-referred to the Senate Finance Committee, and will be re-referred back to Senate Education to finish work. Senator Denis said in work session, “the discussion is still ongoing,” and recommended that the bill be “moved along.” Senator Denis emphasized, “whatever we do .. [we will keep] successes that we have.” Senator Woodhouse, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, agreed that “there is a lot of work to be done.”
The Victory Bill, Assembly Bill 447, was amended in work session with a conceptual amendment, after much discussion. The bill passed out of the Assembly Education “do pass,” with one dissent. The written amendments are still to be drafted.
Victory and Zoom have had much success and have produced the type of academic achievement growth results that are needed to get Nevada out of a last place ranking in education.
Weighted Funding Formula
Senate Bill 178 seeks to establish a funding formula for K-12 education based on students’ individual needs, such as special ed students, children living in poverty, English Language Learners, and GATE. The bill calls for incremental increases in the per pupil funding formula for these groups. There is very limited funding in the Governor’s budget for the weighted funding formula. There are on $35 million additional dollars for re-worked special education funding, which is still based on formula calculations from the old Nevada Plan. Currently school districts in Nevada are taking an additional $350 million from the general budget to fund special education needs. The bill has been re-referred to the money committees in the Senate and House. It is not clear whether the Legislature will be able to find additional monies to fund SB178. This is a bill that will receive attention all the way to the end of session.
Educate Nevada Now supports the establishment of a weighted funding formula for the state. According to cost studies from 2006 and 2014, and the Legislature’s own K-12 Task Force study, the Legislature is underfunding education by as much as $1.2 billion. Our children need the Legislature to continue to work on finding the additional funding so that teachers and students can succeed and meet the state’s education standards, such as passing end of course exam to graduate, and “Read by Three.”
Educate Nevada Now published an Op-ed in the Nevada Independent expressing the need to grow ZOOM and Victory for improved outcomes until we have the funds necessary for a fully funded weighted formula.
As expected, Senator Bill Hammond’s SB 359 to provide vouchers for students to attend private schools did not move forward. However, Governor Sandoval’s identical bill, SB 506, is exempt. The Governor’s bill continues to have no income limits, and vouchers can still be used by private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students, students of different faiths, ELLs, and special ed students. Without income limits, vouchers do nothing to ensure that students who need assistance the most are first in line to get additional help.
Educate Nevada Now and the #PublicMoneyPublicSchools coalition will continue to fight vouchers for private schools, and ask legislators to invest in our public schools where money is needed most.
Expansion of Pre-K
Assembly Bill 186 was approved by the Assembly Education Committee and referred to Ways and Means, the money committee. The bill was amended to make the mandatory age to start a formal education in Nevada six years of age from age seven. The amendment calls for the state to invest $10 million in expanding the state’s capacity for increases in quality Pre-K programs in collaboration with private and public providers. Educate Nevada Now supports any expansion of early intervention and education programs as research shows time and again that students benefit in the long run from Pre-K opportunities.
Assembly Bill 469 to continue with the reorganization of the Clark County school district moved forward with a 40-2 vote in favor in the Assembly. The bill makes the regulation passed under the original Assembly Bill 394 Advisory Committee a Nevada law. Speaker Jason Frierson explained that this was necessary as a response to a lawsuit filed by the Clark County School District. The law gives “finality” to the lawsuit, and directs CCSD to move on with the reorganization. It is likely that some changes will be made in a bill yet to be introduced in the Legislature.