Union president pledges to understate CCSD per-pupil education spending by $4,000

Do facts matter?

More specifically, do they matter to Ruben Murillo, president of the Clark County Education Association - at least when it comes to accurately noting how much the Clark County School District will spend per pupil this year?

We'll find out for sure soon enough, but the answer seems to be "no."

Here's what happened.

Recently, Fox 5 interviewed Murillo and quoted him saying that CCSD only spends $5,000 per student.

Murillo said comparing the success of CCSD schools, where about $5,000 is spent on each student, to Andre Agassi is unfair.

"That is a unique charter and receives almost $13,000 per student."
As both NPRI and Geoff Dornan of the Nevada Appeal have noted, that's flat wrong. CCSD will spend more than $9,000 per student this year.

Wondering where Murillo had come up with the $5,000 figure, I called him up and asked. Murillo told me the reporter had cited him accurately, but then admitted his figure was just an "estimate" and that it could be higher.

Murillo gave me his e-mail address, and I sent him the research linked above, showing that CCSD will spend more than $9,000 per pupil this year. And that $9,000 includes only "current" education expenditures. If you include total expenditures, CCSD will spend over $12,300 per student this year.

Murillo e-mailed me back and said that the spending amounts to which he had been referring were as follows (these numbers are per student, per school year):
Statewide average:
11-12 $5,263
12-13 $5,374

He then wrote: "These are the figures I was referring to and will continue to use when addressing CCSD & Nevada per pupil expenditures."

I recognized these numbers immediately. These numbers represent how much Nevada's state government will spend on education through the Distributive School Account.

However, CCSD, like every school district in Nevada, also receives significant funding from the local and federal governments. This isn't a secret. It's spelled out clearly in the Nevada Plan, and for years, local funding for schools was actually greater than state spending. Here's what the Legislature's report on the Nevada Plan says (p 4):
The DSA is the budget through which the State distributes direct financial aid to local school districts. It does not include the entire funding for K-12 education but rather includes only the State's portion of the guaranteed basic support.
After I e-mailed Murillo to explain the different sources of government funds (although I strongly suspect he knew this already) and encouraged him to be honest with the public, he wrote simply: "Thanks for your response."

While it'd be nice to think that Murillo will start telling the truth about Nevada's education spending, nothing in his e-mails suggests that such honesty is forthcoming. In fact, he explicitly committed to using inaccurate numbers to describe education spending in CCSD and in Nevada.

So much of today's education debate isn't about policy. It's about cutting through union lies, like this one, and making the public aware of what's actually happening.

It's not a policy argument to say that, "In the last 50 years, Nevada has nearly tripled inflation-adjusted, per-pupil spending." It's a fact.

It's not a policy argument to say that, "CCSD will spend more than $9,000 per pupil this year, excluding capital payments and debt outlays." It's a fact.

Whether or not Murillo knew the truth about education spending before our exchange, he most certainly does now. It will be shameful if Murillo and, by extension, the CCEA, choose to ignore this information and lie to the public about how much we spend on education in Nevada and in CCSD.

Teachers deserve to be represented by someone with enough integrity to tell the truth on a matter as simple as this.

We'll see if Murillo and the CCEA start discussing education spending honestly. But if they don't, the media, teachers and the public shouldn't let them get away with it.

I'll keep you posted.

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