Saturday, June 24, 2017

VETTE’S VEGAS VOICE: Inequity in Nevada student funding


Yvette Williams

BY YVETTE WILLIAMS

It is clear over the past two legislative sessions that Nevadans wants an equitable education system. The work of Clark County School District and Nevada Department of Education supports these efforts, and clearly with the new Every Student Succeeds Act the federal government now provides Nevada with more opportunities to succeed. However, there is one huge problem: African-American students continue to be marginalized under a funding formula that doesn’t address their needs and the needs of those students least proficient in the State.

While committee members discuss the education needs of students during the 79th legislative session, it’s been clearly established through years of testimony, backed up with data and reports, that overall African-American students are struggling the most in Nevada. Data shows that African-American students’ proficiency rates are the lowest in the State by race/ethnicity. There’s been a long history of this disparity without a plan to address the gap, although education advocates have pushed for systemic change. The Every Child Succeed Act (ESSA) passed by Congress mandates that states use federal dollars in their state plans to address the needs of students with the greatest disparities by sub-group.

Finally, a solution to the funding dilemma. States and Districts can now provide funding to sub-groups least proficient, and in fact are required to do so. What does that mean for the African-American sub-group? Funding! So what’s the problem, you ask. State legislators decide how the money is distributed based on a funding formula. The proposed funding formula being considered are as follows:

1) ELL or English Language Learners (only second language learners), 2) FRL or Free and Reduced Lunch (low income), 3) IEP or Individual Education Plans (special needs), 4) G.A.T.E. or Gifted And Talented Education. Clearly, you can see there is absolutely NO consideration given to students least proficient as required by ESSA. This should be an outrage to everyone concerned about education. Clark County Black Caucus is joined by the NAACP Las Vegas Chapter and teachers in the classrooms (Clark County Education Association) advocating for education equity.

Currently, the equity allocation model legislators are considering does not address the needs of these students. We know not all students in poverty are least proficient. But when we look at the data for FRL students by ethnicity, our African-American sub-group rates in the lowest 25% statewide followed closely by Native Americans. This mandate also helps to address the needs of students in our rural communities. In the current proposed plan, we do acknowledge our most “gifted” students and long term ELL students, while leaving our least proficient sub-groups invisible under FRL. Do we value some students more than others in Nevada? Contact your state representative (http://mapserve1.leg.state.nv.us/whoRU/) and ask them to support our least proficient students by recognizing them in the new funding formula for education.

We believe that SB178 has the potential to provide students with a more equitable education in Nevada. Having student funding follow the child is critical if they are to receive the resources and tools needed to be successful. The current categorical funding leaves thousands of students out that may qualify. Yet, without an additional funding category for our least proficient students they will continue to be marginalized and left out of the new Nevada Plan currently under construction. If that happens, I shudder to think what their future will hold in the next decade.

Yvette Williams is a community advocate and Chair/Founder of the Clark County Black Caucus, a non-partisan community organization driven 100% by volunteer members registered to vote. Follow her Blog at www.YvetteBWilliams.com and on twitter @YvetteBWilliams or contact her at ClarkCountyBlackCaucus@gmail.com for more information.

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