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