Thursday, March 13, 2014

Major Issue in Nevada Education Funding--Co-Sponsored by UNLV COE and Boyd School of Law

Is School Funding Fair in Nevada?

This is the question that is facing all constituents in the state of Nevada, and the question that legislators, educators, administrators, lawyers, and citizens of Nevada came together to try and answer.

On March 6, the UNLV College of Education co-sponsored an event hosted by the Boyd School of Law to address this issue identified by Dean Daniel Hamilton as the "most important issue in our state." 

The panelists for the program were as follows:

  • David Sciarra, executive director, Education Law Center
  • Teresa Jordan, emerita dean and professor, UNLV College of Education
  • Staci Pratt, legal director, ACLU of Nevada
  • Lucy Flores, assemblywoman, co-chair interim finance committee, Nevada Legislature
  • Sylvia Lazos, Justice Myron Leavitt professor of law, William S. Boyd School of Law

Education Law Centers Executive Director, David Sciarra spoke about their National Report Card which rates Nevada's school financing system the least fair in the country.  He went on to speak on the Nevada's funding formula for education, which he claimed is equitable, but not at all fair. Sciarra encouraged Nevada to rethink their funding formula, and to look at states such as Minnesota, Massachusetts, and New Jersey as examples of funding formulas Nevada may follow. 

Dr.Randy Boone, Associate Dean of Research, spoke on behalf of the UNLV COE, specifically referencing Dean's Metcalf's recent Opinion piece in the Las Vegas Sun which addressed the national study conducted by Education Week titled "Quality Counts" listing Nevada as 51st in the nation,  reporting that Nevada schools rate worst in the nation for likelihood of success based on education. 

COE Alum Ruben Murillo, President of the NevadaState Education Association discussed how the Nevada Plan (created in 1967 by the state legislature) is not fair for Nevada's children, and was followed by Senator Mo Denis, currently chairing the Task Force on K-12 Public Education Funding, which was formed to study and review the Nevada Plan prior to the next legislative session. 

Staci Pratt, Legal Director of the ACLU of Nevada spoke to the legal obligations and basic constitutional right the state of Nevada has to provide education for its citizenry. As stated by COE Alum Ruben Murillo, there has to be a sense of urgency in addressing this issue in Nevada. Over the last three legislative sessions a cut of over $800 million previously provided for education in Nevada, with $500 million of the cut impacting southern Nevada alone, was reiterated as evidence of a need for more attention to the issue among all stakeholders.    

The Las Vegas Sun reports that "If Mo Denis' task force doesn't deliver on a new funding formula, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund are considering litigation to force the issue."

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