Assembly Committee of the Whole, April 19

Geoffrey Lawrence

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

Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.