The 2019 session brought a major change to the way the state funds K-12 education: the passage of SB543 created the Pupil Centered Funding Plan, which revamped how education dollars are distributed throughout the state. It was implemented this budget cycle, and lawmakers approved an additional $500 million to backfill funds that were cut during the pandemic and boost education spending.
Lawmakers also approved a new tax on the mining industry that is expected to add between $150 million to $170 million more to public education over the biennium, voted to earmark existing mining tax revenues for education and designated $215 million in federal funds to address learning loss from the pandemic through summer school, after school, literacy and enrichment programs.
Education advocates call the new revenue a good start, but urge further action to meet ambitious revenue goals identified this spring by the Commission on School Funding. The commission in April recommended looking at sales and property taxes to further support schools, but legislative leaders disliked the sales tax suggestion, calling it regressive, and did not take steps to change the property tax. The tax deal calls on the commission to further study revenue options.
As part of a compromise in which some Republicans voted to implement a new mining tax, the Legislature is restoring funding authorization for tax credit-funded Opportunity Scholarships that help children attend private schools. The bill also eliminates language, stemming from the 2019 session, that precluded new students from enrolling in the program.
And to support the construction and renovation of schools, lawmakers passed SB450, which authorizes school boards to extend bonds from a maximum of 20 years to 30 years without voter approval for the final decade.
Lawmakers also passed a bill, SB215, that would require school districts to offer distance learning plans and encourage competency-based education, a concept rooted in the belief that children should move ahead at their own pace after mastering skills and concepts.
Additionally, the governor has signed SB66, which tasks the Office of Science, Innovation and Technology with developing a statewide system for gauging the extent to which Nevada children have internet connectivity and computing devices. The bill also calls on the office to help increase connectivity.
Another bill addressing a longstanding problem — the state’s teacher shortage — passed the Legislature. SB352 would make it easier for paraprofessionals to complete a student teaching requirement en route to becoming a fully licensed educator.