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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nevada spends billions on K-12 education

A new U.S. Census Bureau Report shows that Nevada spent a little over $8,400 per pupil in 2008-09 (excluding debt repayment and capital expenditures). "Current expenditures" came to $3.6 BILLION that year (current expenditures exclude debt repayment and capital expenditures) and would be an estimated $7.2 BILLION in the biennium - that is more than the state's general fund! (See Table 1, page1). "Total expenditures" (including debt and capital costs) came to $4.5 BILLION in 2008-09 (expenditure on interest payments alone accounted for $288 million!).

Impressively, K-12 ed had $2.6 BILLION in cash and securities on hand but a (near) nation worst debt to expenditure ratio with $5.6 BILLION in accumulated debt.

Of the $3.6 BILLION in "current expenditures" $3 BILLION was spent on salary and benefits alone! (see table 6, page 6). Salaries and benefits for "instruction" related personal accounted for $1.95 BILLION of the $3 BILLION total spent on salary and benefits.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, table 8, page 8.

Per-pupil spending came to $8,422 with salary and benefits consuming $7,050 of those expenditures (or 83.7 percent of "current expenditures")(see table 8, page 8).

While Nevada's per pupil spending ranks 45th among American states plus DC we do spend more than Canada, Germany, Korea and about as much as France and Japan. In fact, if Nevada were its own country we'd rank above average for per pupil spending among OECD nations!

While Nevada spends BILLIONS of dollars on education every year, we've proven incapable of spending the money wisely. In fact, the evidence suggests public education in Nevada is not about educating students but providing jobs to adults! Serious reform is needed: school choice, charter schools, empowerment schools, open enrollment, decentralization, ending tenure, ending seniority, ending lock-step pay, ending advanced degree bonuses; all can help improve the quality of education in Nevada.


  1. Patrick- we already have open enrollment, school choice, and charter schools in the Clark County School District. I could send my children anywhere that has an open seat if I chose to drive them there. I could send them to any charter school that has an open seat, as well. I am unimpressed with the charter schools I have seen. I have been in them ALL, in attempt to see what they have to offer, and they were frankly dismal. I am not sending my kids to school in a strip mall, thankyaverymuch. I am still sticking with my neighborhood school.

    I am THRILLED beyond words that the sunsetting taxes are going to be worked back into the budget and I am thrilled that the state government will no longer be able to raid our funds. Robbing from Peter to pay Paul is wrong. I am happy, as a taxpayer, with our current level of taxation and spending.

    :sigh of relief:

  2. Patrick, do we know what percentage of K-12 spending is for special education. Dr. David Coleman, Work Group member of the Common Core, notes that 1/3 to 1/2 of a districts' budget is for LD services. Thus, the reason for increased per pupil spending gets pretty muddy.

  3. Michele, CCSD's open enrollment policy doesn't go far enough.

    1) You're choosing among similar schools. Schools have little to no incentive to differentiate their product. We need a district wide empowerment system to do t his.

    2) In order to participate in open enrollment you have to signal your interest during a very small window. For example, the window for 2011-12 open enrollment occurred over Christmas Break...

    While CCSD's open enrollment policy is a nice step forward I have to say "big deal" it doesn't go far enough.

    As for the taxes, this is a major disappointment but not a surprise. The irony, however, is that we are robbing Peter to pay Paul. We're robbing the productive sector of our economy to pay the unproductive government services. Government services have seen nary a budget cut or job loss while everyone else in the state has suffered.

    Yes, its true. The bulk of the budget cuts so far have been in imaginary spending. The decline in the general fund has also been small falling from $6.8 billion to $6.4 billion - an amount that is still higher than the 20 year trend.

  4. Aaron,

    I have not looked at K-12 special ed spending but I do know that the bulk of growth in special ed has been in kids labeled as SD which is the lowest form of learning disability. In fact, research by Jay Greene at Arkansas shows the some of the growth in SD labeling is due to the fact that schools get EXTRA money by labeling kids as learning disabled.

    SD kids aren't that expensive to educate - they're pretty normal, in fact many are normal. They're just labeled SD so the school can get more money while also removing that student from the pool that gets tested. In other words, SD kids are profitable students for schools.

    When looking at the kids who are truly disabled, well they do cost a lot to educate but make a very small portion of the budget and account for a small portion of the growth in ed spending.

  5. One more thing,

    Aron, I think the 1/3rd to 1/2 number is a dramatic overstatement.

    Michelle S, the problem with government spending is that it faces no incentive to use resources wisely since it can always get more resources by TAKING from other people. This means it gets more expensive and more expensive. Consuming more resources to the same job makes us poorer overall. It means we have fewer resources to spend on other things. If anything our state government has made things worse by trying to keep the spending bubble going. Governor Sandoval's $6.1 billion budget request is very responsible. It returns the state to a pre-housing bubble spending, right on pace with the last 20 years of general fund spending trend growth.

  6. Patrick- let me give you an example of choice. I have a friend right now who sent her kids to a charter school here in Las Vegas. It is a for-profit charter school. Heard of Imagine? Google it. Actually, Google "Imagine Charter School Fraud" if you want a clear picture of their dealing in America. Essentially, Imagine is in the real estate business. They help charters get started, by buying the real estate, then lease them back at an exorbitant mark-up, using iron-clad contracts to keep the charters from breaking off. Then the majority of TAXPAYER'S money is going back into these corporate fat cat's bank roll in these real estate schemes.

    My friend's school is being forced by the company to get rid of art and library so they can put more kids in the school, while refusing to expand the building and charging them 10 times what the rent would be. There is major corruption in the charter system. If you want to see all our tax money getting sucked up into the corporate machine, go ahead and privatize the school systems.

    You know, I'll deal with a lot of crap before I'll deal with my kids not having library or art.

  7. Michele,

    Nevada does not allow for-profit charter schools. All charter schools in the state are non-profit. They can hire for-profit management companies to run the books and manage the operation etc. That said, there is nothing inherently wrong with for-profit.

    Charter schools, especially in Nevada, have huge compliance costs to get started. Organizations that help establish charter schools take a large amount of risk - they front the money to hire the teachers secure the buliding, and do the research necessary to complete the application (which is over 500 pages long in Nevada). That is right, if you want to start a charter school you have to spend YOUR OWN MONEY FIRST!!!! The state will give you, at most, a $50,000 loan which is a joke. You need between $200,000 and $1 million to start the charter school.

    So I see no reason why you criticize a learning management company from having a long-term contract from the charter school. This is especially true in Nevada where a charter school only gets $6,200 out of the more than $10,400 that is spent on public schools in the Silver State!!!! (Charter schools get $0 for their buildings btw). They have to recoup their investment. If they can't do that, why bother in the first place?

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