Washoe County School District board of trustees briefed on realities of state budget cuts – implications for K-12 public education

Reno High School - photo: the Ally

On Tuesday evening, the Washoe County School District’s administrative staff briefed the Board of Trustees on what the District should expect from the state budget cuts enacted during the recent special session of the Nevada Legislature.

The special session lasted 12 days. Lawmakers were tasked with reducing approximately 1.2 billion dollars from this fiscal year’s budget.  

On Sunday evening Governor Sisolak signed five bills into law that address the shortfall.

Lawmakers did not cut funding to the Distributive School Account (DSA), Nevada’s per-pupil funding formula; the Zoom Schools Initiative which are schools with high populations of English language learners; Victory Schools, the poorest schools in Nevada; special education funds; financial literacy programs and computer science funds. 

“Unfortunately we knew we were going to have to eliminate some programming,” said Lindsay Anderson, the District’s Government Affairs Director. “The Read by Grade 3 Initiative was defunded completely.” 

Washoe County Estimated Funding Reductions  – Approx 16 million dollars

  • Adult Education – $100,000
  • Career and Technical Education – $115,000
  • Read by Grade 3 – $5,171,000
  • Turnaround Schools Grant – $247,000
  • College and Career Readiness (CCR) – $370,000
  • CCR Diploma Incentives – $240,000
  • New Nevada Education Funding Plan (SB178) – $5,000,000
  • Incentive for Continuing Teacher Title 1 (AB 196) – $400,000
  • School Resource Officers – $1,100,000
  • Social, Emotional Learning – $500,000
  • Professional Development – $100,000
  • Teacher School Supply Reimbursement – $683,000
  • Computer and Tech Education – $100,000
  • Pre-K – unknown
  • Gifted and Talented – $1,200,000

“Nobody took pleasure in eliminating these programs.” said Anderson, “But we are hoping to be able to restore some of those funds, assuming additional federal dollars come our way. The 50 million dollars worth of CARES funds earmarked specifically for education is a priority, should any additional federal funds come to the state of Nevada.” 

“We are awaiting word on what our allocation will be,” said Mark Mathers (Chief Financial Officer). “Roughly we estimate, perhaps $5 to $7 million dollars.”

There were a handful of programs that were partially cut, for example, the gifted and talented program, school safety, school police enhancement, social, emotional learning, and college and career readiness.

“These (reductions) are estimates only at this time,” said Anderson. “We don’t yet have confirmation from the Department of Education, but these are estimates that Mike Mathers and I, and his team put together (last) weekend based on the various amendments to AB3.”

Federal funds play a key role in the short term, but cannot be counted on long-term. 

“It depends on how our economic recovery goes,” said Mather, “how quickly it comes back, before we can see these state revenues restored.”

“The next legislative session feels like it’s just around the corner,” said Anderson. “Six months away and there’s a list of over 100 bill draft requests from legislators that have already been filed. 

“We know that state agencies will be submitting their budget requests … within four to six weeks. So, a lot of work going into the next legislative session is happening already. 

“And if that weren’t enough, we know that the (new) Pupil Centered Funding Formula, that modifies the Nevada Plan is scheduled to go live for the Fiscal Year 2022. And so, that adds a component of uncertainty for our district and others.”

During the meeting, Anderson looked forward to the potentially difficult funding level discussions during the next biennium.

“We understand what are the additional costs of operating schools in this COVID-19 era. That’s going to play a key factor in understanding what are our budget needs requests going into another legislative session.

“I think it’s bleak. Everyone is nervous about what’s going to happen … and closely watching every single month as we see tax revenue returns coming in.

“The Economic Forum plays a key role … (the next projections) coming in October and December … setting what the legislature can do. There is a lot of uncertainty about what we’re facing … the COVID pandemic.

“The longer that it goes on, the longer that it stalls recovery, that’s not good news for the state or anyone else.”

On the other hand, said Anderson, “Hopefully, there will be additional assistance from Washington DC.”

This week, Washoe County’s school administrators are meeting with local health officials and the Nevada Department of Education. The discussions will center around the latest COVID-19 evidence and how it might affect the current reopening plan. 

The next Trustee’s board meeting has been scheduled for this coming Tuesday, July 28 at 2 pm to discuss the growing opposition to in-person instruction from various employee associations, parents, and community members.


Joe McCarthy is the general manager and development director of the Sierra Nevada Ally. He writes about education and the arts. Support his work here.