Thank you to this distinguished commission of experts for making time from your busy lives and careers to lead this historic and vitally important undertaking.
As you move this legislatively-directed process forward, I would encourage you to consider two guiding priorities in your work.
First, that equitable educational opportunity for all of Nevada’s learners serve as a guiding principle for your recommendations. Families, and households, fortunate to have choices of schools to meet their learners’ educational needs, do so for diverse reasons — so the diversity of high-quality schools serving our elementary and secondary students reflects these different priorities. In Nevada , we have schools of right – traditional district-run schools with defined geographic attendance zones, and schools of choice, where students apply to attend and lotteries generally determine placement when demand exceeds number of available seats. These learners are all Nevadans, and deserve equitable educational opportunities, and equitable school funding.
Second, that your school funding recommendations include weighted funding for student risk factors that pay for the increased, real costs associated with risk factors. Currently, Nevada law recognizes only one of a learner’s status as an English Leaner, a child with identified special needs, a gifted and talented learner, or an at-risk learner, defined as a one who is eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program, meaning their household income is up to 185% of federal poverty levels. But the law grants flexibility to modify this definition.
I look forward to providing this Commission with up-to-date research about the specific factors other states utilize for their at-risk learner funding designations. Today these include designating different weights for free lunch eligibility versus reduced-price lunch eligibility, status as a homeless or foster youth, over-age and under-accredited high-school learners, pattern of unsatisfactory performance on state standardized assessments, and eligibility for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program programs.
Evidence shows consistently that it costs schools more to serve these groups of students with equity and fidelity, and I hope that Nevada’s school funding model will address this disparity.
Thank you for your admirable service.