I’m sitting in the galley for the first Committee of the Whole meeting to debate the state budget. For those who are unaware, the legislative majority has decided that a prudent strategy in rallying support for increasng the tax burden on Nevada families would be to pull all appropriations bills out from the budget committees and debate them on the floor, and before the press, in Committee of the Whole meetings. These meetings are set in the evening to coincide with the evening news hour in order to maximize the strategy’s effectiveness.
Tonight’s is the first of these meetings and lawmakers will be discussing state appropriations for the Distributive School Account (DSA). The DSA is the general fund appropriation that is used to supplement some local school district revenues in order to reach the legislatively-defined “Basic Support per Student” amount of per-pupil K-12 financing. The “Basic Support per Pupil” amount (usually round $5,000) does not include all school district revenues. Total support (for operating costs only) usually is closer to $8,000. Including capital expenditures and debt repayment, Nevada school districts spend closer to $13,000 per student.
However, spending amounts are not reall what matters when it comes to K-12 education. What matters is student performance. And there is no meaningful correlation nationwide between per pupil expenditures and student performance. It matters more how the educational system is structured than how much is spent per pupil. Studies nationwide have shown that the degree of school reform within the states shows a much higher correlation with student achievement. Particular areas of reform that contribute to higher results include: school choice, open enrollment, alternative teacher certification, and grading the performance of individuals schools and teachers.
With regard to expanding school choice, NPRI has already designed a Public Education Tax Credit program that would save $1 billion over the first 10 years while dramatically improving educational choice and quality.
We’ll see if the legislature takes note of this data and acts to give better educational opportunities to students or, once again, elects to simply carry water for teachers’ unions…