Las Vegas Sun

January 31, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

Bringing parity

Lawmakers need to change the way Nevada funds K-12 schools

By now, lawmakers should see the problems in the way Nevada funds public education given that they have been evident for years. Nevada long has been near the bottom in the nation for the amount of money spent per pupil.

Not only does the state spend less, it also distributes money inequitably. And that’s not just the grumblings of Clark County, where people long have complained about the state’s funding formula for K-12 schools. That’s the finding of the American Institutes for Research, a nonpartisan group that presented a study for a legislative panel studying the issue.

As David McGrath Schwartz and Cy Ryan reported in the Sun, the study notes that Nevada favors rural schools over those in Clark County. The study said Clark County consistently receives less than other counties, last year being given $5,068 per student. Tiny Esmeralda County, which has an estimated population of 775 people, received the most in the state: $17,508 per pupil.

In the funding formula, the state considers how much tax money the counties generate, then helps small and remote counties that don’t have a significant tax base. The study said the formula “is an elegantly designed funding mechanism suitable for an essentially homogenous rural state.”

Nevada is anything but a homogenous rural state. More than 1.9 million of the state’s 2.7 million people live in Clark County.

The original version of the funding formula was passed in 1967, and although it has been tweaked over the years, it hasn’t changed to keep up with the state’s growth.

Teresa Jordan, professor emeritus of UNLV, worked on the study and called it outdated. She said that under it, “the less wealthy get more funds and the wealthy get less.”

The study ran into criticism from lawmakers and officials outside of Southern Nevada.

Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, who serves on the committee, tried to dismiss the study, saying its conclusion, which suggests changing the funding formula, was “no surprise” because Clark County helped raise money to pay for the study.

Please. The conclusion was no surprise not because of who funded the study but because it was so evident and has been for years.

But lawmakers in other parts of the state like the status quo, and why wouldn’t they?

Clark County subsidizes education, and other services, for the rest of the state. It is seen as Nevada’s cash cow, and it’s easier to take from Southern Nevada than raise revenue elsewhere.

Lawmakers need to take a close look at the study and the way they’ve been funding K-12 education, not only in the amounts they’re spending but how they’re distributing it.

That’s not to say that Clark County shouldn’t help the other counties, but there has to be greater parity than now exists. This isn’t a matter of Clark County against other parts of the state; it’s a matter of sound policy.

The Legislature has to do right for students across the state, and with roughly 7 of 10 students in Clark County, short-changing Southern Nevada means short-changing the state.

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  1. It is typical of the situation in Nevada that has existed far too long. A 12k disparity per student between Esmeralda and Clark counties is a farce. Why is Esmeralda even a county, with 775 people? My neighborhood has more citizens than that. Perhaps consolidating some of these cow counties into one or two larger, but more populated, counties would be an answer. Some hillbilly politicians would lose their jobs, but who cares (except them)? What this state needs is a strong dose of common sense. The state legislature, and in particular, Clark county representatives, need to flex their political muscle. It is fast becoming a "might makes right" situation. Clark county has the "might", and they should start using it. Another solution is secession. The new state of South Nevada has a nice ring to it. Consolidate with Nye county, and secede.

  2. It is now close to 5pm, and no other comments posted. It kind of illustrates the APATHY of the citizens in Clark County doesn't it? Do you paragons of blogging BS have no comment to make about the education of your soon to be service industry clones? Park cars, make beds, deal cards (with the stipulation that you can at least count to 21), sweep up trash, serve slop in unlimited buffets, drive a cab, deal dope, pimp prostitutes, inhabit nightclubs, work in nightclubs slinging overpriced bottles of liquor, work at pools slinging overpriced individual/bottled drinks, and on and on. The silence is deafening and oh so revealing.

  3. Not much money at stake here. The "extra" $10K per student in Esmeralda is what, $200,000 perhaps. For the 20 or so kids involved. Washoe County, Elko County, Carson City SD get very similar amounts to CCSD, per pupil. The entire rest of the state can't be much more than 5,000 students.

  4. I agree with you, and I don't see any change being made now or in the future. So, I would fully support succession.

  5. Does anyone else notice the irony in that this piece is decrying the practice of taking from the rich and giving to the poor?

  6. Believe me, the Northern Nevada folks would love nothing more than to part company with Southern Nevada. It has been and continues to be a long held sentiment. Reality is, it's not going to happen.

    The quality of education is far better up there, I can personally attest to that. There are reasons, and it is not really about money, but cultural, both local and family. School is a family affair up in Northern Nevada, and it is not so here in Southern Nevada. THAT is the game changer in this whole educational equation, that the People in Southern Nevada tend to tip toe around, mostly because of the their lifestyles here.

    Yes, the decades of old school politicians have managed to avoid changing any Nevada Constitutional laws that make their campaign contributors uncomfortable, so while Nevada's population exploded, not much of anything was done to make educational services equitable and in parity. Their game plan: They focus instead, on blaming educators rather than equally funding education.

    Blessings and Peace,

  7. For Commenter Chuck333, the family culture is pivotal. We both know that the fact also exists that as this article eludes, educational funding has NOT been on parity (which I do also acknowledge).

    Family is also #1 influence in my book as well, we both agree for sure on this!

    As an aside to all readers, whether or not you have children in school or children at all, please consider joining your local school's PTA and help support the school community. These children are our future workers and leaders, and a great investment, and return in value for OUR time and service.

    Blessings and Peace,

  8. CCSD spends about $8k per student...add in capital expenditures and its over $10k.

    That said, spending is NOT correlated with better education. Spending more money does not improve quality.