LAS VEGAS — Today, Victor Joecks, NPRI’s communications director, submitted the following testimony on education funding levels to the Senate Committee on Finance and the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means.
My name is Victor Joecks and I’m the communications director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on historical levels of education funding over the last few years.
I’d like to make three observations today.
First, much of what you’ve been told today — specifically from the Clark County School District — isn’t true. In the past few years, CCSD has not made over $500 million in budget cuts. How can I say this so confidently? Because that’s what CCSD’s own general fund budget numbers show.
This information comes from a budget worksheet created by CCSD and formerly available on the district’s website. After NPRI published an article detailing this information, however, the worksheet was removed from the district site. Nevertheless, a copy of that publication remains online for your perusal.
Second, if CCSD’s budget hasn’t been cut by $500 million, why is the district facing financial problems? Because CCSD’s labor costs — its largest expenditure — have been rapidly increasing. Between 2007 and 2011, CCSD’s labor costs increased by nearly 20 percent. And that 20 percent increase occurred during the worst economic downturn in decades.
When an organization’s funding remains essentially flat, but its largest expenditure increases by 20 percent, budget challenges are certain. Those challenges, however, result from the massive increases in spending, not from large funding “cuts.” What these out-of-control spending increases reveal is Nevada’s serious need for collective bargaining reforms that will eliminate evergreen clauses and binding arbitration.
Paradoxically, while local revenue has declined, state funding through the Distributive School Account has increased to its highest level ever.
Third, according to Superintendent Dwight Jones, CCSD currently has 17,568 teachers, and the district reports 311,238 students. That’s one teacher for every 17.7 students. Given that simple math, responsible lawmakers should examine why CCSD is claiming that its average class size is 34 students for elementary schools and 38 students for high schools.
These class sizes are dramatically larger than the class sizes reported on NevadaReportCard.com for the 2011-12 school year. NevadaReportCard.com shows the average high school class size is between 24 and 27 students, while the average student-to-teacher ratio in the first grade is 19-to-1. The high for all grades was the fifth grade, at 28-to-1.
Furthermore, according to NevadaReportCard.com, CCSD had additional teachers this year 17,568 — as compared to 17,147 last year.
In short, CCSD’s numbers don’t add up.
In order to fix Nevada’s education system, you must be able to accurately identify what the facts are. CCSD officials have given you their spin, but Nevada’s students need you to cut through the district’s misinformation and identify the truth.