The Nevada Plan is the state’s 50-year-old school funding formula that is now outdated and broken. The formulafailsto deliver the funding and resources needed to give Nevada's public school children a meaningful opportunity to achieve today’s academic standards. The key component of the Nevada Plan funding formula is the Basic Support Guarantee or “BSG.” The BSG is the per pupil funding provided to districts to deliver core educational programs to all students and to operate their schools.
The BSG is set by the State using 50-year old historical spending data that hasn’t been updated for years and doesn’t take into account changes in demographics,modern educational legal mandates, and the standards and requirements we expect our students to meet and exceed. As a result, the Nevada Plan has been labelled an “archaic shell game,” where education funding is based on arbitrary and outdated measures. The bottom line is that the Nevada K-12 funding formula has no relationship to today’s actual cost of educating students.
And despite seismic demographic shifts and dramatic changes in student expectation, the BSG has remained stagnant. In 2009, the BSG for CCSD was $5,212 per pupil. This school year, the BSG is $5,774 per pupil. When adjusted for inflation, the BSG for the current year is $5,083 per pupil which means the BSG has actually decreased since 2009. Other districts have seen essentially flat funding as well, resulting in constant struggles to deliver high quality education.
(When accounting for inflation, the basic student funding guarantee has remained relatively flat. )
The Nevada Plan short-changes districts because:
It isn’t based on the cost to educate students but is based on revenue the state makes available for education; .
It provides no additional funds on a per pupil basis to account for the additional cost of educating Nevada’s most vulnerable students such as economically disadvantaged students, and English language learners (ELL). It also does not account for gifted and talented students.
Funding for students with disabilities is chronically insufficient. In just one school year districts were forced totake over $385 millionfrom their general education budget to cover unfunded and legally mandated special education services. By taking from their general fund there are less resources available for general education students.
It fails to take into account the actual inflation costs school districts face year-to-year.
These fundamental flaws in the Nevada Plan are no secret. Studies commissioned by the Legislature in 2006 and 2012 contain detailed analysis of these – and other – defects in the formula. A Legislative Task Force in 2014 called for a comprehensive reform of the formula to ensure it provides the funding and resources children need to succeed in school. The reform never came.
It’s time to transition to a cost/evidence based funding formula. If we want a funding formula that works, we need to modernize the Nevada Plan. States across the country have recognized the need to base public education funding on the cost of resources that are necessary to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed. A cost/evidence based funding formula determines funding by costing-out resources that have an impact on student achievement - while taking into account each district’s unique demographics and characteristics. This research assigns each district and “adequacy target,” or level of funding necessary to meet the needs of students. The legislature then incrementally increase funding to reach those targets.
Cost/Evidence based funding formulas often look at several cost factors, for example:
Teachers needed for appropriate class sizes;
Specialists needed for certain student populations;
Special Education, ELL, or At-Risk students - and the services they need;
Social workers or counselors;
School supplies and technology; and
Extracurricular, P.E., and other class offerings.
Example: Illinois, a state that modernized their formula last year, adopted a formula that examines 27 different cost factors, and adjusts for individual needs of each district’s population. The formula is based on widely-accepted research and evidence on resources that impact student achievement. The result is a rational and meaningful formula to meet the needs of all students.
Nevada children cannot wait any longer. For too long arbitrary funding and piecemeal funding solutions have left Nevada at the bottom. It’s time to provide our students with the resources necessary to succeed. It’s time to FundOurFutureNV!