Live blogging the Assembly and Senate’s closing of the K-12 education budget

Victor Joecks

You can watch live here. Agenda is here. Ralston’s tweeted that Democratic legislators are looking to add $600 million to the K-12 education budget.

If that’s the case, total DSA spending (how the state funds education) would increase – yes, INCREASE – by about $300 million. More details here (add $600 million to the figures in that blog post to get the $300 million increase).

It’s 12:28 and the Committee Chambers just cleared out. I’m (unfortunately) in Las Vegas, so I’m watching the live streaming. I’ll keep you updated.

12:40: And we’re underway. Let’s start with an important statistic. In the last 50 years, Nevada has nearly tripled inflation-adjusted, per-pupil spending without increasing student achievement. More money won’t increase student achievement.

12:42: Up first, the governor’s staff, Heidi Gansert and Andrew Clinger.

12:44: Groan, Gansert announces funding restored for class size reduction and all-day kindergarten. (Neither program increases student achievement.) In total, Sandoval wants to give $241 million more to K-12 education, $20 million to NSHE.

12:46: Sandoval wants to spend more, despite having a $190 million loan in his budget and the fact that increasing education spending in Nevada hasn’t increased student achievement.

12:48: Also, Gansert recommends “triggers” to increase K-12 funding with taxes come in higher than expected during the interim. Will the spending – without results, accountability or reform – ever stop?

12:55: Gansert going over more details of K-12 budget. Keeps the 5 percent pay reduction, has teachers contribute to PERS (currently teachers pay nothing for their retirement accounts) and the suspension of merit increases.

12:57: Clinger: Now we need to transfer $247 million from debt reserves. Previously, the governor had wanted to take $302.1 million from school district debt reserves.

1:00: And with impressive speed, the governor’s recommendations for increasing education spending are now on NELIS.

1:01: The Committee is now taking public comment. May I recommend reading the stories of businessmen and women in Nevada who have had to deal with large reductions (not the minor reductions faced by K-12 education)? These businesspeople have to

1:07: Committee chair Debbie Smith tells White Pine CFO not to get too excited about extra money. They must keep the pressure up to raise taxes.

1:18: Some guy named Steve Laden urges Republicans to “step out of the shadows” and increase education funding.

Why is the emphasis only on funding? Seems certain lawmakers are only interested in how much Nevada spends, not the results Nevada’s students achieve.

1:27: Las Vegas Chamber lobbyist Sam McMullen now talking about the need for long-term reforms (not in education, in unfunded liabilities). He says there’s been significant reform in education.

Umm… really? Where?

1:30: McMullen calls for elimination of social promotion, teacher tenure. “Seriously looking for progress and success in those.”

1:31: Billy V with the Nevada Resort Association up next. Talks about the difficult decisions his companies have had to make and then pivots to wanting more money for education. Worried about the debt reserve.

1:32: Billy V. focusing on Nevada’s spending rankings.

This is what’s so telling — all the talk is on education funding, not education results. NPRI is focused on results; too many are focused on funding.

1:35: Billy V. says education is an “investment.”

Groan. Have you seen the return on the investment Nevada is getting? We’ve tripled per-pupil, inflation-adjusted spending and results are stagnant or worse. Reform is needed.

1:37: Horsford gearing up to give an “impassioned” speech. Apologizes for implying Republicans are against the same things he’s for. Says he respects the governor.

1:41: Horsford: “Ask one more time: To find that balanced solution together, because our kids deserve it.”

Groan. We’ve tripled K-12 education spending without results! What more do you want? Where are the real reforms?

1:44: Proposal to redirect IP1 funding to the general fund now being discussed. Reminder: Advisory question only voted on in a few counties.

1:47: Horsford wants to take the $221.5 million from IP1 that Sandoval would use for General Fund revenues and dedicate it to the DSA. Seems like this would be a net wash (reserve the right to change this analysis if the details change) as General Fund monies than wouldn’t have to be used for the DSA.

Motion passes.

2:08: Committee now discussing Sandoval’s block grant program.

2:10: Ben K.: School districts like flexibility and districts like to have the ability to direct how money is spent.

Chairwoman Smith opposes giving districts flexibility, prefers to tell districts how to spend their money.

Looks like Republicans support local control. Democrats? We’ll find out soon…

2:12: Question answered: Horsford opposes.

2:15: Sounds like a party line vote to oppose local control (R’s for, D’s opposed). And to think, some wonder why spending more doesn’t increase student achievement?

2:17: Party-line vote to oppose block grant program.

2:19: On to Sandoval’s performance pay plan ($20 million for FY13). Sen. Cegvaske moves to approve it. Oceguera seconds. Horsford supports.

2:23: Asm. Aizley opposes because the test isn’t specified. A potentially good point: To be fair, the test needs to be a value-added assessment.

2:29: Motion passes. Moving on to full-day kindergarten. Sen. Ben K. motions to increase funding to full-day kindergarten. Reminder: Full-day kindergarten is a waste of money as any learning gains are gone by third grade.

2:43: Cegvaske rips the majority for calling this meeting with less than 24 hours notice and not allowing the budget division to process the governor’s budget amendment. Assemblywoman Smith fires back. Smith hints at “additional revenue” down the road.

2:54: Smith refuses to elaborate on the D’s plan to raise taxes. She says it will be obvious soon that there is not enough money.

2:58: D’s vote to oppose Sandoval’s recommendation to reduce funding to “Other state education programs” by $2.3 million. Still refuse to offer a tax plan or their preferred alternative.

3:03: DSA budget coming up soon. That’s where the real action is going to be. The list of accounts being closed is now available on NELIS.

3:06: Now talking about the DSA. Up first: Taking money from the school district’s debt service funds (p. 23 on the NELIS document).

3:14: Horsford won’t support the governor’s gimmick of taking of money from school district’s debt service funds. Cites the will of the people.

3:18: While Horsford makes good points on the substance here (taking debt service money isn’t prudent budgeting), it’s beyond ironic to hear him cite the “will of the people” when he’s going back on the promise he made in 2008 not to raise taxes when the economy was struggling.

3:26: Roll call vote called. Can’t hear responses, but I assume D’s will support NOT using the debt service money and R’s will support it. Leaves $247 million hole in the governor’s budget.

3:28: Onto the basic support per-pupil in the DSA funding.

3:38: Unanimous support for reducing DSA funding to the levels recommended by the Governor after today’s revisions.

3:40: Now they’re talking about requiring teachers to fund a portion (25 percent) of their PERS contribution. In contrast, state workers pay 50 percent of their pension costs.

3:45: Requiring a PERS contribution from teachers passes. Looks like five percent reduction for teacher pay won’t.

4:00: Finally, some real world wisdom. Assembly Hardy says he had to layoff over 200 employees in the last few years. Says he’s probably personally supported schools more than anyone else in that room.

4:10: Sen. Horsford asks, Why not do both more funding and reforms? Hints that Nevada needs a way to come together and hold parents accountable. Where is he going with that? Parenting directed by those in Carson City?

4:12: Party-line vote (I assume, I can’t hear what they’re saying) to reject a 5 percent pay cut.

4:14: Party-line vote (I assume again) to reject increase of merit pay increases. Merit being a completely misleading word, because those raises are based on getting degrees and showing up, not on performance.

4:19: By my quick calculations, the hole in Sandoval’s budget is now $650 – 700 million, depending on the amount of debt reserves Sandoval still needs to take.

4:48: The hearing is wrapping up and here’s the takeaway. By my quick calculations (I’ll need to look at the documentation tomorrow), the Democrats have put a $700 million hole in Sandoval’s budget, which would increase, INCREASE, K-12 education spending by $386.7 million (7+ percent increase) over the current biennium.

With Nevada’s private sector struggling with 13+ percent unemployment and some private sector employees facing salary reductions of 50 percent or more, Nevada’s Democrats want to spend more without increasing results or accountability.

How will it play out? We’ll find out soon enough. Sandoval is giving a speech tonight at 6 pm.