NPRI: Kirkpatrick wrong on education-spending claims

By Victor Joecks
  • Monday, February 4, 2013

LAS VEGAS — In a speech earlier today, Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick claimed, “For too long the answer to education has been to cut.” Responding to her comments, Victor Joecks, communications director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, issued the following comments:

Speaker Kirkpatrick’s statement that “for far too long the answer to education has been to cut” is wrong and ignores 50 years of Nevada’s history of education spending.

In 1960, Nevada spent $430 per pupil. In 2009, it spent $8,865 per student. Even after adjusting for inflation, Nevada has nearly tripled per-pupil spending in the last 50 years. Nevertheless, results have been stagnant — a reality that advocates, for their own credibility, need to acknowledge.

On the state level, per-pupil funding through the Distributive School Account has increased from $4,298 in 2004 to $5,374 in 2013. DSA funding has increased nine of the last 10 years, with the only decrease being a mere $26-a-student drop in 2010. Would anyone but a politician characterize a $1,076 increase as a “cut”?

Nevada will never solve the problem of its chronically failing education system until state leaders get honest about what’s already been tried.

For 50 years, Nevada has tried reflexively spending more. It’s never worked — unless the real purpose, all along, has been to channel taxpayer dollars to unions that then give campaign donations to subservient politicians.

It’s well past time that all elected officials understand and accurately portray Nevada’s education-spending history.

Joecks noted that, in Nevada State Superintendent James Guthrie’s academic career, Guthrie repeatedly exposed the myth of education cuts. He wrote that “Chicken Little is alive and seemingly employed as a finance analyst or reporter for an education interest group.” In an article entitled “The phony funding crisis,” Guthrie noted:

For a variety of reasons, from one year to the next, schools almost always have more real revenue for each of their enrolled students. For the past hundred years, with rare and short exceptions and after controlling for inflation, public schools have had both more money and more employees per student in each succeeding year.

Joecks concluded:

Spending more hasn’t increased student achievement, but research shows what does work is school choice. School choice programs have raised graduation rates in D.C. and increased math and reading scores in Milwaukee and Charlotte, and the mere competition generated from school choice increased public school outcomes in Milwaukee and Florida.

Properly structured, school choice programs also save tax dollars.

It’s time for Nevada to join 21 other states and Washington, D.C. and empower parents with the ability to select the school and school type that’s best for their child.

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