CCSD's $600 million budget-cut deception

'Whopping cuts' turn out to be district whoppers - told to parents, press and lawmakers

By Victor Joecks
  • Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cries of poverty at the Clark County School District have been loud and frequent over the past several years, but claims of "cuts" at the district have been wildly exaggerated.

For months, CCSD officials have been telling the public that the district in recent years made over $500 million in cuts to its general-fund spending, with the amount rising to "nearly $600 million" in the last few weeks.

These statements have also been widely repeated by the media:

There's just one problem. As even a casual glance at CCSD's own general-fund spending statistics reveals, what the district has been saying is not true:


Fiscal Year

CCSD's general
fund spending

Difference from
previous year

Amount CCSD claims
 to have cut

Difference between CCSD and reality

Full Enrollment


2.091 billion

+177 million




2.149 billion

+58 million

-133 million

191 million



2.161 billion

+12 million

-120 million

132 million



2.135 billion

-26 million

-135 million

109 million



2.091 billion

-44 million

-148 million

104 million



2.107 billion

+16 million

-60 million

76 million





-596 million

612 million


When contacted by NPRI, CCSD provided a spreadsheet showing the "cuts" that supposedly total $596 million. An inspection of the spreadsheet, however, reveals that many of the listed "cuts" are merely decreases in spending increases the district wanted.

Supposedly the "cuts" began in the 2008-09 school year, when, even though CCSD's general-fund spending increased by $58 million, CCSD officials reported cutting $133 million. For the next year, when CCSD spending increased by $12 million, officials report another $120 million in "cuts."

In 2010-11 and 2011-12, CCSD's spending did decrease by $70 million. What CCSD has been telling the public, however, is that it cut its budget a whopping $283 million. During the current year, when CCSD is projecting its spending to increase by $16 million, another $60 million in "cuts" supposedly occurred.

In actuality, CCSD's projected level of spending for the current school year, $2.107 billion, is only $54 million, or 2.6 percent, under its all-time peak spending level of 2009-10.

If CCSD had received funding for all the "cuts" it claims to have made, general-fund spending would have grown from $2.091 billion ($2.247 billion after adjusting for inflation) in 2007-08 to $2.703 billion for the current school year — an inflation-adjusted, per-pupil spending increase of 20 percent in only four years. That's what education bureaucrats were demanding during Nevada's worst economic downturn in at least half a century.

CCSD's casual dishonesty with the public about these mythical spending "cuts" speaks loudly about the district's real priorities. Yes, it's another tedious example of government bureaucrats assuming a spending increase and then crying about "cuts" when spending doesn't increase as much as they would like. But it's more.

By focusing on these imaginary cuts, CCSD officials shifted the conversation away from the real reasons why the district chronically fails a huge proportion of its students. The district also led the public away from what's actually been driving spending increases — such as the problems with collective bargaining and binding arbitration — and into a phony discussion of spending levels.

For Nevadans serious about genuine public-education reform and who want to be hopeful about the current CCSD administration, it is a dispiriting sight: an institution established to foster learning instead using its lobbying and communications shops to spread a cynical falsehood.

Deceiving the public about spending cuts may lead to a bigger haul of taxpayer dollars, but it's also a betrayal of education's core values.

Victor Joecks is communications director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more visit

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