LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — School leaders took their requests to the 2023 Nevada Legislature in Carson City this week, presenting a request for an increase of $270.8 million in per-pupil funding.

The money is for fiscal year 2024, and keeps the Nevada on track for a 10-year incremental increase to “optimal” funding — a play to push funding past efforts that leaders say have been aiming too low.

Dr. Jesus Jara, leader of CCSD and also the state organization of school superintendents, speaks a the Nevada Assembly Education Committee meeting on Thursday.

The Clark County School District (CCSD) and districts from all over the state partnered to prepare the plan through the Nevada Association of School Superintendents (NASS).

“I wasn’t a math teacher, I was a science teacher,” CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara said to the Assembly Education Committee on Thursday. “But I know that chasing a maximum result from a minimal investment is a longshot and a gamble that our children in this state and our community can no longer afford.”

Jara, who leads NASS, was joined in the presentation by superintendents from Lincoln County, Pam Teel, and Lyon County, Wayne Workman.

Workman addressed school safety, and said the “physical hardening of our schools” required funding. He said many school buildings are “historic” and struggle to meet modern needs.

Lyon County school superintendent Wayne Workman talks about school safety and the need for funding on Thursday in Carson City.

But primarily, personnel are needed to achieve safer schools, he said. The NASS plan calls for an investment in safety “with an emphasis on addressing mental health issues.” That includes school counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses, and community health workers.

Republicans and Democrats agree on more funding for schools, but they differ on where some of that money goes, and where it comes from. Gov. Joe Lombardo’s proposed budget includes an enormous boost for education funding, but a fight is likely ahead over money set aside for private schools.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert joined the chorus asking for more funding. She said reports show that Nevada continues to lag in per-pupil funding, but students are still closing the gap to “average” performance.

“Imagine the lengths, and how far all our children would grow and go with an investment in their learning,” Ebert said.

“We are very thankful for moving in a very short period of time. But we still have a long way to go,” she said.

Lawmakers — including several new legislators who come from teaching backgrounds — asked questions to all the speakers for details that aren’t spelled out in the plan.

Questions about funding pre-K education and positions besides just teachers came up, but safety was also on lawmakers’ minds.

The Nevada State Public Charter School Authority made a presentation to the committee at the end of the meeting. School transportation and special education needs are growing.