Where the State Falls Down on the Job and How to Fix It
Nevada's school funding system earns F's in the recently released 3rd edition
of "Is School Funding Fair?
A National Report Card." Because the state distributes aid unfairly and fails
to use a reasonable amount of its economic capacity to support its public schools,
Nevada's funding system ranks among the worst in the U.S.
The State needs to design and implement a new school funding system that provides
the opportunity to learn to all students.
On the National Report Card, the state receives an "F" in funding distribution,
which measures the extent to which the state's funding system is structured
so that higher poverty districts receive more aid than lower poverty districts.
In Nevada, the pattern is actually regressive with higher poverty districts
receiving, on average, only about 69 cents for each dollar their wealthier
counterparts receive. Such a skewed funding system thwarts efforts to improve
achievement and close achievement gaps.
Nevada receives another "F" for state fiscal effort, measured as the proportion
of the state's economic productivity that is spent on education. Nevada's ranking
dropped this year. Furthermore, the state's overall funding levels are below
average compared to other states, when adjusted for regional wages, economies
of scale, and other factors.
Nevada will need to increase "effort" if it is to improve funding distribution
and raise the overall funding level enough to support student achievement.
For example, the state funds only a few small pilot programs for students learning
English, even though 19% of Nevada students are English learners.
Stable and Equitable Funding Is Essential
First issued in 2010, the National Report Card is built on the principle that
predictable, stable and equitable state systems of school funding are the essential
precondition for the delivery of a high-quality education. Without this foundation,
efforts to improve the nation's schools will be less productive and unsustainable.
To improve on the condition and performance of schools, states need to implement
systems that provide sufficient funding that is fairly distributed to account
for the needs of students, especially low-income students, English language
learners, and students with disabilities.
The Report Card evaluates states on four separate, but interrelated, fairness
indicators---funding level, funding distribution, state fiscal effort, and
public school coverage.
Like most rural states, Nevada is above average on coverage, which examines
the share of school-aged children who attend public schools and compares the
median household income of those children with the income levels of families
who do not use public schools. Only about 8% of Nevada school children attend
nonpublic schools, a rate lower than most other states. However, the income
disparity between public and nonpublic school households is high, with nonpublic
households earning almost twice that of public school households.
The National Report Card is coauthored by Dr. Bruce Baker of the Rutgers Graduate
School of Education; David Sciarra, Executive Director of Education Law Center
(ELC); and Dr. Danielle Farrie, Research Director for ELC.