33 Ways to Improve Nevada Education Without Spending More

Executive Summary

Nevadans from all walks of life want a better quality of education for the state’s rising generation. This desire has repeatedly been frustrated, however, by the demonstrated inability of public school districts, historically and currently, to translate increased financial resources into higher student achievement.

While Nevadans have nearly doubled school spending per pupil on an inflation-adjusted basis over the past 40 years — now spending more, per pupil, than do a majority of Nevada’s neighboring states — most education spending still goes to programs that do little for student achievement. Nevada is not alone in its failure to translate increased school funding into greater student achievement. There’s a nationwide disconnect between school spending and student success — a fact which has led academics at top universities to research how best to improve the cost-effectiveness of public spending on education. This body of research, over the past several decades, has yielded education reforms that would fundamentally improve the delivery of education in America.

Because this reform agenda frequently challenges traditional methods of public schooling, however, it has encountered fierce resistance from entrenched bureaucrats, union officials and other special interests. In reaction, these interest groups have launched their own “Counter Reformation” that ostensibly seeks improvement of student achievement, but primarily through expansion of existing public-education practices.

Yet, voluminous academic research examining the counter-reformation proposals has produced a remarkable consensus: While counter-reformation policies can improve student achievement, the gains are neither lasting nor cost-effective. On this, education scholars across the political spectrum agree: Whether they’re from The Brookings Institution or the Cato Institute, the Center for American Progress or the nation’s leading universities, they concur: To make public spending on education cost-effective, an aggressive slate of reform policies is required.

This study reviews the academic literature and empirical evidence on alternative policy proposals and concludes by synthesizing these research findings into a policy agenda that would make Nevada’s education spending much more effective.

These recommendations are particularly relevant as a current ballot initiative would finance a counter-reformation policy agenda by new taxes imposed on Nevadans. As this report shows, existing resources — redeployed more effectively — can provide Nevada youth with substantially superior opportunities for success in life.

• Read the full study: “33 ways to improve Nevada education without spending more

Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.