An initiative petition to mandate a specific level of funding for state schools has apparently qualified for the Nevada ballot.
The measure, sponsored by the state teachers’ association, would require that state Nevada per-student funding at least match the national average. The teachers’ group, the Nevada State Education Association, says Nevada is currently at a $5,813-per-student level, while the national average is $7,548. The U.S. Census Bureau lists Nevada 46th among the states.
NSEA submitted more than double the necessary signatures, 108,000 gathered during the last 12 weeks; 51,337 are required. Because of Nevada’s terrific population growth and its turnover in residents, it’s customary to gather many more signatures than needed because there is usually a high rate of invalid ones.
The measure was filed partly in response to an earlier initiative, the “Education First” petition sponsored by Dawn and Jim Gibbons that some teachers fear will cut school budgets by forcing the lawmakers to fund schools before knowing how much money is available for all the needs in the state budget. The Nevada Legislature goes into session in January, meeting for 120 days, and the Gibbons measure requires the lawmakers to fund schools before other parts of the budget.
But the state Economic Forum, which provides revenue figures on which the lawmakers are required to rely in building the budget, does not supply those figures until May, so lawmakers would have to fund schools without those figures. Some critics of the Gibbons proposal believe the Legislature would be overcautious, setting funding levels very low in the absence of revenue predictions, to avoid any shortfall.
The Gibbons initiative was submitted at the beginning of June after 87,000 signatures were gathered. Both measures are already attracting criticism. The Las Vegas Review Journal Monday called the teachers’ initiative “the teacher salary supplement act—to the tune of $500 million a year.” The Nevada Taxpayers Association, meanwhile, has condemned both initiatives, saying initiatives are a poor way to deal with the details of school finance.