How much will Clark County spend per pupil on education in 2009-10?

Victor Joecks

A. $5,025
B. $4,750
C. $11,420
D. All of the above

And – drum roll please – the winner is…

D. All of they above


Consider this recent article from the RJ.

The superintendent of the Esmeralda County School District drives a school bus when necessary.

Staffing is so limited for the rural district that its one-room schoolhouses will close for the day if a teacher calls in sick, said Bob Aumaugher, the Esmeralda superintendent.

The school district, which served 68 students last year and has no high school, will receive $17,038 in per-pupil state funding for 2009-10, or more than three times as much as Clark County’s per-student allotment of $5,025.

So initially, A. $5,025 seems like a winner. But if you skip down to the 24th paragraph you’ll find out the whole story.

Clark County receives about 44 percent of its basic education funding from the state. The remainder comes from local taxes: 41.6 percent comes from 2.6 percentage points of the 8.1 percent sales tax and 14 percent comes from one-third of the property tax.

If you run the math, B. $4,750 is the amount of per-pupil funding that comes from local taxes and C. $11,420 is the total amount of per-pupil funding from state, local and property-tax sources.

So why isn’t C. $11,420 the answer instead of D. All of they above?

Because, unfortunately, education-union officials and politicians often pick and choose their answers based on their own agendas.

Consider this Associated Press article that reports the same information as the above RJ article:

Legislators approved a figure of $5,251 to be spent per K-12 student for the upcoming fiscal year, $38 more than the 2008-2009 figure of $5,213. Rheault called the increase “a little deceptive” because the state had to come up with $329 million to make up for the reduced projections in local taxes.

The article fails to mention that schools receive additional money from local and proprety taxes. (The $5,251 is the average amount each county receives from the state. Clark County gets $5,025 from the state.) Unless you follow education news closely and know how many different sources there are for education funding, you would think that Nevada only spends about $5,000 per pupil, instead of well over $11,000. Even in the RJ article, you have to read until the 24th paragraph to find out that state funding is just a portion of the per-pupil funds.

For more examples of the strange ways education funding is reported, check out Numbers Game, written by my colleague (that word makes me feel old) Patrick Gibbons.

So is $11,420 the amount Clark County will spend per pupil on education this year? It’ll probably be quite a bit more, but to find that out you’ll have to look at the Clark County School District’s financial reports.

Fortunately for us, Patrick’s already done the hard work.

But how much does Nevada really spend each year on education? Officially the figure ranges between $5,000 and $7,000 per pupil, depending on who is speaking. But these figures ignore millions of dollars in education-related expenditures.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute examined the approved budgets for each county school district, as reported to the State Department of Taxation. NPRI’s finding: Total spending averaged $13,052 per pupil during the 2008-09 school year. During that period, per-student expenditures ranged from a low of $10,889 in Churchill County to a high of $49,551 in Eureka County. Clark County spent $13,387, while Washoe County spent $11,393 per pupil.

By comparison, Nevada’s public charter schools received an average of just $6,746 per pupil.

Now that you know the rest of the story, make sure you let others know the facts when education officials quote incomplete statistics.