Has half a billion over two years paid for the education budget? Not exactly.
Education advocates applauded lawmakers for approving $ 502 million in funding over two years for the long-awaited new K-12 funding formula, but the head of the state’s largest teachers’ union has said the struggle for income is far from over.
“What you saw today is part of it,” Clark County Education Association executive director John Vellardita said on Wednesday. “It’s not the end of the game.”
His remarks highlight what remains at stake in the final days of the legislative session, which is expected to end in less than two weeks. CCEA, the collective bargaining unit for teachers in the Clark County School District, currently has two voting questions to be presented to voters in next year’s general election.
Vellardita previously said the two initiatives – one to increase the gambling tax, the other to increase the sales tax – would be used as leverage to find additional revenue earlier. The union said it plans to withdraw one or both of the voting measures if significant progress is made on K-12 funding, but Vellardita has never clarified what hits that threshold.
Wednesday’s action by the joint budget committee was not that, according to Vellardita.
“They are still on the table,” he added of the double ballot initiatives. “We are ready to do the right thing if the right thing is not done.”
What happened wednesday
On Wednesday, the Joint Budget Committee approved $ 502 million in general fund dollars over the next biennium to implement the state’s new student-centric funding plan, which is being rolled out over the course of this legislative session. Most of that money should go directly to the base per student amount of the funding formula. It is expected to bring the average base funding per student statewide to $ 9,096 for the next school year 2021-22 and to $ 9,195 for the school year 2022-23, according to data presented to the budget committee.
As lawmakers cut the education budget in other areas and significantly changed the funding structure, it was not immediately clear how these new funding levels compare to current spending levels.
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson at Wednesday’s hearing asked legislative staff for an apples-to-apples comparison of overall funding levels, which include core funding per student and additional money from the State. But tax staff said those figures would only be available after taking into account other legislative measures. Staff expect it to be included in the final education budget bill.
Yet the decision to fund the student-centered funding formula is described as an important step in state education policy. The new funding formula will apply to 93.6% of K-12 students. The remaining students are enrolled in rural counties where school districts are held harmless at current funding levels.
“I have waited a very long time to invest this amount in education,” said Senate Finance Chairman Maggie Carlton (D-Las Vegas). “It’s all about the basics. Everything to ensure that each student has this amount. Then we add the weights to it. “
Republican Senator Ben Kieckhefer said the funding decision would put pressure on future lawmakers and governors to continue funding education.
“It’s not every day that you do something that I think will have a significant impact on students,” he added, “but I think today is one of those days.”
Frierson called the actions of the Legislature in the 2019 session and the current session “historic support for public education.”
In a statement, the Clark County School District called the formula funding budget a “big step forward” and thanked lawmakers for “signaling strong support for education.” The district noted that “Nevada still has a long way to go to meet the national average per student funding.”
Vellardita said the most important part of transitioning to the new weighted funding formula is having an appropriate base, but he noted that lawmakers still disagree with the recommendations made by the School Funding Commission.
This commission, which was created by the 2019 Legislature to study the new funding formula and explore revenue options to fund it, concluded last month that Nevada would need to invest $ 2.2 billion at 3, $ 2 billion over the next decade to reach the national average per student. funding or funding levels recommended by education experts in a 2018 Nevada study.
What happens next?
The three proposals that linger on the Legislative Assembly in the last days of this 2021 session constitutional amendments to increase taxes on mining. Resolutions on these three proposals were passed by lawmakers in a special session last summer.
Progressive supporters lobbied for one of three proposals – now known as AJR1 ** – that would tax mining at 7.75% of their gross mineral revenues. Currently, mining companies are taxed on their net mineral proceeds and the tax rate is capped at 5%.
If any of them are approved again this session, they will appear on the 2022 general election ballot for voters to approve or reject.
But not before being challenged in court. Rural counties have already indicated they will challenge the constitutionality of passing the resolutions on the grounds that mining was not mentioned as a subject in Governor Steve Sisolak’s official proclamation for the special session. Democrats argued that only the subjects of invoices (not resolutions) must be defined in the proclamation.
The Nevada Supreme Court recently ruled that two bills passed by Senate Democrats in the 2019 session were unconstitutional because they did not pass by a two-thirds majority.
Legal concerns are not the only obstacle.
Democrats, who have historically failed to do well in midterm elections, are quietly wary of placing a mining question on the 2022 ballot. They believe it would increase rural voting, which could hurt Democrats in races statewide. Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak is re-elected next year.
Legislative leaders have been quiet in their public comments on the prospect of generating new revenue within the state. Democrats would need four Republicans – two in each chamber – to vote with them on any revenue bill.
Shortly after the Joint Budget Committee vote on Wednesday, the AECB’s Twitter account posted that the union “appreciates the efforts of the legislative leadership, the governor, the games and the mines to make a great investment in our K-12 system. “.
The tweet continued, “We are optimistic that before the end of the session, our education system will be on track to meet the national average for funding per student.”
Vellardita declined to provide details of the types of revenue discussions underway with legislative leaders and the gaming and mining industries behind closed doors, saying only the parties are working “collaboratively.”
When announcing their signature-focused petitions, the AECB said their dual proposals would generate additional revenues estimated at $ 1.4 billion each year. The gambling tax hike has been estimated to bring in $ 350 million in additional revenue each year, and the sales tax increase has been estimated to be over $ 1 billion per year.
Tax analysts at the 32nd Special Session calculated that if AJR1 ** (or a similar SJR1 **) had been applied to the 2019 gross mineral proceeds, the mining industry would have paid $ 484 million more in taxes this that year.