LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Valley teachers and parents are pushing for big changes when it comes to how public schools are funded. A new piece of legislation could be the answer.
“We need additional dollars, but what kind of dollars?” CCEA executive director John Vellardita said. “Where do they go? Do they achieve results?”
Those are the questions teachers, parents and lawmakers are trying to answer. CCEA said the solution starts with changing a funding formula established in Nevada in the 1960s.
“Every child gets the same amount of funding regardless of their needs,” teacher Christy Ruffolo said. “It’s a really old way to fund.”
Vellardita said that means students with more needs aren’t getting more resources to help.
“For example, on the high end, gifted and talented kids, English language learners, the free or reduced lunch child who needs additional dollars or the at risk children, the bottom 25 percent proficient,” Vellardita listed some of the students impacted most by the current funding structure.
Ruffolo is a kindergarten teacher. Her class is filled with students who don’t speak English.
“They get a lot of extra testing and it’s a lot of work to cater to their needs,” she said. “Teachers spend their own money on supplies most of the time and ELL take a lot more visual aids.”
Vellardita said there are 55,000 ELL students in Clark County.
“84 percent of that population receives not one extra dime for their needs, 9,000 do” he said. “That’s only 16 percent, but that’s not money that follows them into the school. If that 9,000 isn’t going to 38 designated schools then they don’t get it. So that’s money that’s going to a school rather than a kid.”
Vellardita said a shift from categorical to weighted funding would change that.
“So the expectation is pretty high that fundamental change has to occur in the funding system so that we have adequate funding that goes directly to these buildings, follows the kid,” he said.
Rebecca Garcia is a parent and the Vice President of the Nevada PTA. She believes weighted funding will help. But she’s worried that, eventually, money will still run out.
“Simply changing how we slice up the pie isn’t enough,” she said. “We need to increase the base so that there’s enough money for things like textbooks, smaller class sizes, maintenance. The reality is we need a bigger pie.”
“We need books,” Vellardita said. “We need resources in the classroom. We need to understand the nature of the student coming in.”
Vellardita said the Teachers’ Union is counting on a bill to get things on track.
“We think it’s a defining piece of legislation for education in this legislative session,” he said. “That’s how strongly we feel.”
The Teachers Union said that bill, expected to address weighted funding, will come from Las Vegas Senator Mo Denis. He’s also the chair of the Senate Education Committee