$8 billion Nevada K-12 education budget includes teacher raises | nnbw.com

$8 billion Nevada K-12 education budget includes teacher raises

Geoff Dornan

Nevada Appeal

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A joint session of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees on Thursday, May 16, approved total K-12 education funding of just more than $8 billion for the coming two-year budget cycle.

That’s a $741.8 million increase over the current K-12 budget.

The vast majority of that total is in the Distributive School Account — $6.7 billion.

The DSA is the primary budget used to fund K-12 schools and charter schools statewide and is based on providing school districts with a per pupil base funding amount.

The state’s share of the DSA is $3.15 billion and the largest contributor is the General Fund. But there’s also revenue from a dozen other sources, including the marijuana tax, permanent school fund, Initiative Petition 1 room tax revenues and federal mineral lease revenues.

The non-state share of the DSA consists of revenues from the Local School Support Tax — which generates just about $3 billion in the biennium — and the one-third public schools property tax that brings in about $525 million.

Outside of the DSA, there’s about $1.3 billion in so-called categorical funding for specific programs including those in the Other State Education Programs.

The committee actions include not only the 2 percent raises in statute for all school district employees each year but the 3 percent cost of living adjustment in 2020 promised during the campaign by Gov. Steve Sisolak.

Those two increases plus the nearly 4 percent a year increase in health insurance premiums for school personnel will cost a total of $413.2 million over the biennium.

The decisions made Thursday include continuing to funnel the revenue generated by a 3 percent room tax imposed in Clark and Washoe counties into the DSA for another two-year budget cycle. That will generate $377.7 million over the biennium

Lawmakers joined Sisolak in diverting money from the 10 percent recreational marijuana tax away from the Rainy Day Fund and into the Distributive School Account.

That stream is projected to raise $119.9 million over the coming two-year budget cycle. That addition enabled lawmakers to increase the original per pupil support recommended by the governor by $120 to $6,153 in 2020 and by $124 to $6,224 in Fiscal 2021.

But when all other revenues including federal and local revenue is added, total per pupil funding is just more than $10,000 in each year of the biennium.

Among the larger pieces of the budget outside the DSA is the funding for the New Nevada Education Funding Plan providing school districts with $1,200 per eligible student to improve specific education needs for students including English Language Learners and poorer students. Total funding for the program is $69.9 million a year.

The two committees approved significant increases for programs that are outside the DSA and within the other state education programs.

They added $1 million a year to the Career and Technical Education program for a total of $13.5 million a year. They added $1 million more each year to the Adult Education program for $19.3 million annually.

They added $935,000 to the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program and, since that program has opportunities to receive grants and private funds, put $1.2 million in the Interim Finance Committee JAG schools can access as matching money if they find other revenues.

They added $11.2 million in each year to the Read By Grade Three program to hire 141 more staff. That will raise total funding for the program to $31.7 million a year and provide a learning strategist in each of the state’s 406 elementary schools.

Because the recreational marijuana tax was originally slated for new school safety initiatives, moving it to the DSA would have required the General Fund to pay for more than $53.8 million of those initiatives. So the committees cut back the recommended school safety recommendations to just $23.3 million.

The biggest reduction was in school facility improvements, primarily security equipment and remodeling costs. The recommended funding there was reduced from $25 million over the biennium to a $7.5 million one-shot appropriation.

After noting Clark County School District has bond money for those projects and Washoe has money from the voter approved sales tax increase, lawmakers voted to provide those funds only to the other 15 counties.

But lawmakers agreed to approve a total of $10.5 million over the biennium to add more social workers to K-12 schools and $4.5 million to increase the number of school police officers.