Defining and Weighting Funding to Support At-Risk Learners’ Success

Submission for the Nevada Commission on School Funding

Chair McCormick-Lee and Members of the Commission on School Funding,

I’m Don Soifer with Nevada Action for School Options.  I first want to congratulate the Commission for voting to consider an alternate definition for “at-risk pupils,” for purposes of school funding.  This represents an important opportunity for Nevada to build on this Commission’s thoughtful deliberation for the greater good of our learners.

As you know, SB543, the legislation which established this Commission, defines an “at-risk pupil” as one who is eligible for Free or Reduced-Price lunches under the National School Lunch Program, while indicating that the State Board of Education may prescribe an alternate definition.

The Nevada Department of Education elsewhere references pupils “at risk of dropping out.” This Commission has heard me speak on other occasions of the specific risk factors associated with an increased likelihood of dropping out of school, and of the increased real costs of providing effective interventions, wraparound services, and the specialized, licensed staffing necessary to meet these learners’ needs effectively.

I am before you today to recommend that this Commission institute a new definition for the at-risk category of funding that embraces two factors: eligibility for Free or Reduced-Price Lunch as well as a second factor: demonstrating low levels of proficiency on standardized assessments.

Recommendation for At-Risk Definition and Weighting

Provision 1 – Learners eligible for Free/Reduced Price Lunch via the National School Lunch Program will receive weighted funding at a weight of .20

Provision 2 – Learners identified at or below the 25th percentile for proficiency under Section 8 of SB178 will receive additional weighted funding at a weight of .15.  Their school also receives this funding for two years after that student improves their performance to above the 25th percentile at a weight of .10 for the first year, and .5 for the second year.

Weighted funding for those learners who are identified by both of these provisions will combine at the levels prescribed by each provision.

For context, Augenblick, Palaich and Associates’ Justin Silverstein, in his presentation to this Commission on Novermber 1, 2019, discussed the APA/Nevada School Finance Study recommendation of a weight of .30 (not including Title I funds) for students designated to be at-risk students.

I have deep appreciation for this Commission’s commitment to accomplishing its historic mission of aligning Nevada’s school funding system with actual costs, and for the many, real pressures you face in doing so.  Our at-risk learners, and the educators who serve them, also face many real pressures every day.

Empowering our schools to employ proven, evidence-based strategies and interventions has been shown to greatly improve these learners’ academic growth and proficiency, and readiness to learn.  I hope this Commission gives strong consideration to adopting a definition and weighted funding to make a difference in supporting Nevada’s At-Risk Learners.  Thank you.