Nevada education: Spending more, learning less

Patrick Gibbons

Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Jim Rogers gave a speech on Friday night in which he bemoaned Gov. Gibbons’ cuts to higher education spending and sarcastically suggested Nevada should start telling prospective students:

"Move to Nevada-Our education system is in such good shape that we will guarantee your child will graduate from eighth grade. We are sorry, but we are unable to guarantee that your child will be able to read or write or add and subtract."

Rogers actually has a good point. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 63 percent of Nevada’s eighth graders can read at grade level, down from 70 percent 10 years ago. This drop has occurred even as Nevada has increased per-pupil public education funding from $5,757 to $7,344 (not including capital outlays, debt payment and teacher pensions) over that same time period. 

In addition, NAEP reading scores indicate that 43 percent of Nevada's fourth-grade students are functionally illiterate-this despite the fact more than $40,000 has been spent on each student's education to that point.


Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress, NAEP Data Explorer,


With the state spending $4-5 billion dollars on education each biennium, it's difficult to believe that Mr. Rogers, or anyone for that matter, has really been combing through the budget to cut waste or eliminate inefficiencies-especially since there is absolutely no incentive for anyone in government to do so.

Nor should we expect the quality of our education system to suddenly improve once we give it an "adequate" amount of money-whatever that number might be. The truth is that we've tried that approach for 40 years now: Nevada has more than tripled per-pupil spending since 1960, adjusting for inflation.

Clearly, increasing spending is not the answer. Nevada needs meaningful reforms.