After four rounds of ‘cuts,’ state K-12 education funding at highest level ever

Victor Joecks

Here’s a perfect example of the doublespeak engulfing the debate on Nevada’s education system.

Wednesday on Face to Face, Assemblyman Marcus Conklin bemoaned that state K-12 education funding has had “four rounds of cuts” in recent years. (13:48 mark)

Host Jon Ralston: You think that even though Sandoval is essential keeping everything flat, we need more money in education. …

Conklin (13:33 mark): Fundamentally, the question is, “Do we spend enough now?” We’ve gone through four rounds of cuts. … Those cuts mean we have more kids in class in K through 12, particularly in Clark County.

At some point in time, we have to recognize that those things affect the outcomes. The outcomes are our students; the outcomes are their ability to earn an income and grow our future economic potential.

“Four rounds of cuts”? Let’s look at state K-12 funding over the last several years. This comes from p. 9 of the Legislative Appropriations report on the education budget.

In case you can’t see the screen shot, here’s how much state government has spent per pupil since 2004:

2004 (all years are fiscal years): $4,298, $311 increase over the previous year
2005: $4,433, $135 increase
2006: $4,490, $57 increase
2007: $4,699, $209 increase
2008: $5,125, $426 increase
2009: $5,212, $87 increase
2010: $5,186, $26 decrease
2011: $5,192, $6 increase
2012: $5,263, $71 increase
2013: $5,374, $111 increase

So for those of you keeping track at home, “four rounds of cuts” have produced a $26 per-student funding decrease in 2010, which came after at least six years of sizeable spending increases, and record-high amounts of state education funding in 2012 and 2013.

How many unemployed and underemployed Nevadans would love to have pay “cuts” like education has had “spending cuts”? Instead, if Sandoval and Democratic and Republican leaders get their way, all Nevadans will face higher sales taxes and vehicle registration taxes and most of their employers or potential employers will face higher payroll taxes – all to prevent “further cuts” to a program with record-high state funding.

Later on the show, Conklin says, “At the end of the day, nothing is going to get done without dialogue and that dialogue has a beginning point.”

I’d like to nominate the beginning point of this dialogue to be the truth and ask Conklin, Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sen. Michael Roberson, Assemblyman Pat Hickey, Superintendent Dwight Jones and Superintendent Heath Morrison to accurately describe the current level of state K-12 funding.

When “four rounds of cuts” lead to record levels of state K-12 education funding, it’s easy to understand how many people think we need to spend more, even though Nevada has nearly tripled inflation-adjusted, per-pupil spending in the last 50 years while student achievement has stagnated and Nevada’s graduation rate has fallen to 45 percent.

As Nevada’s new Superintendent James Guthrie has noted, money is not the problem in education today.

I emailed Assemblyman Conklin for his comments on this last night. I will let you know if he responds.