Budget cuts smudget cuts

Patrick Gibbons

CCSD’s per pupil budget, 2004-11 (2010 dollars). Click on the graph to zoom in.

Since the Clark County School District (CCSD) educates three out of every four Nevada children and spends $3 out of every $4 on K-12 education in the Silver State, examining its budget provides a reliable estimate for the overall health of spending in Nevada. So how are we doing in this economic downturn?

Since the massive, 2003 tax hikes began funding K-12 education in 2004, CCSD’s total budget has increased 9.2 percent per pupil. The operating budget has increased by 9.8 percent and salaries and benefits for employees have increased by 12.1 percent. From the end of one recession to the end of another, CCSD has more money per pupil, even after adjusting for inflation. Hardly tough sledding.

So even with the “massive budget cuts” Nevada’s K-12 education has seen in the last two years, Clark County’s per pupil spending is still higher today than it was from the 2000-01 through 2005-06 school years.

Yet all we’ve heard from media reports and pundits (almost daily) for the last two years is that education has been “cut to the bone.”

Since the recession began at the end of 2007, CCSD’s per pupil spending from the general operating fund (yes, even adjusted for inflation to 2010 dollars) has declined by a “massive” 1.01 percent.

Yup, a 1 percent budget reduction – right down to the bone.

But as I’ve stated numerous times, the operating budget ($6,900 per pupil) isn’t the total budget (which is $11,900 per pupil). CCSD’s total budget per pupil has declined by an “impressive” 3.3 percent.

So are the children really suffering with a 1 percent decline in the operating budget and a 3.3 percent decline in the total budget? Hardly. It’s the policymakers and bureaucrats who are “suffering” because they have to make adult decisions on how to use scarce resources more effectively.