CARSON CITY — The Senate took the first big step Wednesday toward recasting a half-century of Nevada education spending policy, easily approving a rewrite of a school funding blueprint enacted when the state’s population was smaller than its current public school enrollment.
The bill was the major legislative action of a day that also saw major criminal justice bills signed by the governor and hearings on more education funding and authorizing collective bargaining for thousands of state employees.
The funding bill, Senate Bill 543, now heads to the Assembly for action with five days remaining in the session. The Senate voted 18-3 to approve it after an hourlong debate.
“We have a system where we fund education in a way that was great for when it was created,” said Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, one of the main architects of the revised funding plan, referring to the current funding plan that dates from 1967. Ending his remarks 15 minutes later, his voice wavered as he described the occasion as a historic moment.
“This is very personal thing for me, because this is why we do what we do, because we want to make that difference,” he said. “This is one of those things that’s going to change peoples’ lives for generations.”
The bill sets forth a base per-pupil funding scheme for the state’s roughly 450,000 K-12 students, bringing together dozens of current funding streams into one account for easier tracking and streamlined distribution. It includes special allocations for gifted and talented programs, students at or near the poverty level, or those just learning English that apply statewide, no matter where a student is enrolled. It also creates a rainy day fund to stabilize year-to-year funding fluctuations.
For the first two years, it would exist as a test run alongside the