LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — Faced with a looming budget shortfall of tens of millions of dollars, the Clark County School District trustees are calling on lawmakers and the community to work together to direct surplus money from the recreational marijuana tax to fund raises for school employees.
In a 4 p.m. Thursday news conference, the call came on the day that teachers in Arizona and Colorado walked out of their classrooms, and trustees wore “red for ed” to indicate support for teachers across the nation.
Earlier this week, Nevada announced it had brought in approximately 83 percent of projected amount of recreational marijuana tax revenue through February.
Additionally, the IP1 Room Tax, also known as the "Save Our Schools" Initiative, is a 3 percent room tax increase voted on during the 2009 Legislature.
"Like the marijuana money, the room tax increase has been used to continue an all-too-common practice in Carson City of increasing taxes in the name of schools, students and teachers -– all while knowing little if any of those dollars will actually be used to increase K-12 public education funding," the trustees wrote in a news release.
“It’s time for district leadership to unite with our teachers and other employees to say enough is enough,” said Board of School Trustees President Deanna L. Wright. “We are stronger together than divided.”
The announcement comes after the district lost an arbitration decision that would ultimately cost CCSD an estimated $51.5 million in the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years.
Trustees noted that in Nevada -- like in Arizona and other states -- education budgets still have not recovered to funding levels before the Great Recession in 2008.
CCSD has been forced to cut more than $770 million from its budget since 2009 because of reduced revenue funding. Nevada has spent nearly 8 percent less in education funding in 2015 than it did in 2008, even with inflation factored in, according to the latest comparable data from the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities.
The arbitration decision would cost the district about $155 per student in funding.
“This arbitration decision could throw CCSD's budget into chaos and, more importantly, affect the lives of hundreds of our employees,” Edwards said.
“It’s important for state lawmakers to consider the intent of voters when they supported the marijuana initiative -- the vast majority thought this would generate more money for schools, not go into an account and supplant other funds,” said Board of School Trustees Clerk Lola Brooks.
“In states such as Arizona, Oklahoma and Kentucky, teachers associations are rallying and protesting to the governors and legislators at state capitols, because that’s where the money for raises comes from,” said Trustee Linda E. Young. “It’s time for us to rally together in Nevada to give our teachers and other employees the raises they deserve and keep CCSD out of another painful budget shortfall.”
Trustees noted that Arizona teachers were participating in a walkout Thursday and protesting at the state capitol in Phoenix.
“Nevada taxpayers voted on a recreational marijuana tax to increase money for education, yet millions and millions are tied up in the state’s rainy day fund - instead of providing raises for teachers and other school employees,” said Trustee Linda P. Cavazos. “Around the nation, in states like Kentucky and Arizona, teachers have recognized that the source of education funding is in the state legislature. We must work together with Nevada legislators and the governor to solve this problem, and put those funds into classrooms and toward paying our teachers and support staff.”