FILE - Nevada Education Funding

Nevada state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, at podium, speaks at a news conference about a bill that would overhaul the way the state allocates education funding, at the Capitol in Carson City Monday, May 13, 2019. 

Nevada Democrats introduced legislation that would overhaul how the state funds education.

Democratic lawmakers say Senate Bill 543 would provide a much-needed modernization to the current funding formula for education.

The current formula, the Nevada Plan, hasn’t significantly changed in over 50 years. Under law, the legislature is required to establish a “statewide average basic support guarantee per pupil,” which is supplemented by local revenues.

“The basic support guarantee for each school district is computed by multiplying the basic support guarantee per pupil that is established by law for the school district for each school year by pupil enrollment,” according SB 543’s Legislative Counsel’s Digest.

Proponents say a new formula is needed to address English-learning students and at-risk students living in poverty. They also say it will increase transparency in funding. 

The bill would replace the Nevada Plan with what’s called the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan, which would combine state funds with local money to guarantee a certain amount spent per-pupil. The new plan would adjust for local costs and provide “a reasonably equal educational opportunity to pupils with certain additional educational needs.”

Despite the bill being backed by Democrats, it’s opposed by the Nevada State Education Association, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the state. 

“Simply put, no new education funding plan will work without new and additional revenue. This plan simply moves money from one area of Nevada to another, creating new winners and losers,” the union said in a statement. “It is a misnomer to call this a ‘student-centered’ plan when it takes from certain students to give to others.”

NSEA also said it was shut out of the planning process.

The free market Nevada Policy Research Institute said that the legislation doesn’t increase funding and will likely hurt rural school districts.

"This bill doesn't itself increase funding for K-12; it merely redistributes existing revenue streams, so it functions as a zero-sum game,” NPRI said in an analysis of the bill. “The rural districts are likely to be disproportionately burdened by these changes. NPRI will take no stance on this bill regardless. Better legislation to increase student performance statewide must include school-choice components."

Another bill introduced this week, Senate Bill 545, would redirect revenue from the state’s marijuana tax to fund education.

Regional Editor

Derek Draplin is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as an opinion producer at Forbes, as an editor at The Daily Caller, and as a reporter at Michigan Capitol Confidential and The Detroit News.