Nevada needs charter schools

Patrick Gibbons

Nevada needs more charter schools (privately operated public schools), whether they are brick-and-mortar schools or cyberschools. Beyond improving student achievement, graduation rates, and the performance of traditional public schools (through competition), charter schools are much cheaper to operate.

Unfortunately, Nevada is behind the curve. Arizona has 1,750 percent more charter schools than Nevada with a population that is just 149 percent larger. Utah, a state with a similar population size, has nearly three times as many charter schools. “Progressive” California leads the nation, with over 800 charter schools – many of which have set up in California’s poorest neighborhoods, providing some greatly needed educational choice.

So how can charters lower education costs in Nevada? Nevada has the nation’s third-highest level of capital expenditures and debt expenditures per pupil. Yes, we have been the fastest growing state in the nation, but Arizona has been right behind us, and Arizona’s capital expenditures and debt are far lower than Nevada’s.

*Source: U.S. Census Bureau

It’s a good bet that charter schools play a big role in keeping costs down in Arizona. You see, charter schools don’t recieve bond money to build their schools. They have to take the per-pupil funds they recieve and hire staff, buy supplies and build their schools.

For example, a charter school in Clark County will recieve about $6,386 per pupil, while the Clark County School District claims its operating budget is $7,617 per pupil. This operating budget doesn’t even include capital expenditures and debt repayment, which drive Clark County’s expenditures to over $10,000 per pupil.

A rapid expansion of Nevada’s charter-school program could literally save us hundreds of millions of dollars in the future. In fact, the difference between Arizona’s and Nevada’s capital expenditures in FY 2006 (the latest data available) comes to over $300 million (and that is after adjusting for Nevada’s lower student population).

Of course, for this to happen, Nevada would have to repeal some very nasty, union-sponsored, anti-charter-school rules …