Cutting the budget

Patrick Gibbons

Despite the Great Recession – which has resulted in 27 months of continually increasing unemployment – the Nevada Legislature has decided to continue increasing education spending. The spending increases have been so great over the last three years that the recent round of budget cuts to education still leaves K-12 schools with more money this biennium than in the last.

Starting in FY 2008, the legislature increased the level of basic support per pupil and overestimated the number of students that would enroll in Nevada’s public schools. This resulted in an appropriation of far more money than was necessary for public schools to operate adequately.

If the Nevada Legislature rolls back basic support per pupil to 2007 levels and adjusts for inflation, the state could see around $250 million in savings.

This figure is estimated by taking the current Distributive School Account figures and simply replacing the FY 2010 and FY 2011 basic support figures with inflation-adjusted 2007 figures. For FY 2010, this would be about $5,000 instead of $5,251. This estimate is, of course, based on the current 2009-11 biennium, and actual savings for the 2011-13 biennium would vary depending on the level of local school support taxes.

Since the quality of education in Nevada has not improved in any statistically significant way since 2007 (or in the last decade) we can reasonably assume the reductions will not harm students. Furthermore, a $250 million reduction would amount to a mere 3.8 percent reduction to K-12 operating budgets for the biennium.

In a state where the private sector wages decreased 12.6 percent and unemployment tripled, a 3.8 percent cut cannot be considered devastating.