What is NESS?
The term NESS is a very important program for Garfield County School District and even more important to our students. NESS or Necessarily Existent Small Schools is a state program that was created to recognize that the costs of teaching students in rural areas costs more than in an urban setting. The program is specific to assist small schools that are located in remote areas and are, therefore, expensive to operate. Created with the 1972 finance study by the Utah Legislature, the state was cognizant that “all children of the state are entitled to reasonably equal educational opportunities regardless of their place of residence in the State and of the economic situation of their respective school districts.”
The program is based on student transportation travel times from their home to school and their potential travel time should their school be closed due to consolidation. Since Garfield is labeled as a frontier district with a density of 1 or less student per square mile, most of our schools meet at least one of the definitions needed to receive additional funding under NESS. In our district, we have multiple locations where the time it would take to drive a car from the specific address of the hypothetically closed school to the nearest operating school of the same type would exceed the statutorily established minimum travel time allowing the school to have met the requirement.
Of Utah’s 41 districts, 25 receive NESS money. Since all students are guaranteed an appropriate education, the NESS program is the only method to make sure the additional costs of school operations in small isolated Utah communities give all Utah students a fair chance at getting their needed education as close as possible, rather than being bused for too many miles and too many hours. How much does this program mean to us at Garfield County? How does $2,472,021 or 26% of our budget sound. Tell your legislator to support NESS!
Tracy Davis, Superintendent – Garfield County School District