We will spend more money, but we still won’t spend it effectively

Patrick Gibbons

*The sports car equivalent of Nevada’s K-12 education: expensive and non-functional.

The Nevada Legislature has “restored” some “budget cuts” to Nevada’s K-12 education. Among them was $81 million for the Distributive School Account (DSA), which covers the state obligation on the guaranteed student support to the local school districts.

With this spending “restored,” the DSA now looks like this:

FY 2008: $1.27 billion
FY 2009: $1.19 billion
FY 2010: $1.29 billion
FY 2011: $1.29 billion

While these numbers are in nominal values (not adjusted for inflation), we note that we’ve been in a deflationary period since 2008. Even assuming low-to-moderate inflation, the values won’t change significantly.

Additional expenditures include $28.4 million for pensions for teachers in at-risk schools. However, this is a one-time expenditure, meaning more money will be needed next year to continue the program.

The legislature added in $30 million for teachers who earn advanced degrees, a meaningless bonus that does not appear to benefit students. Rather than paying bonuses for degrees earned, Nevada and the local school districts should pay teachers based on how much value they add to student learning. Dr. Matthew Ladner of the Goldwater Institute presents a merit-pay plan in his latest report, “New Millennium Schools

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the legislature has added in $271 million in education spending on top of Gov. Gibbons’ proposed budget. This triggers an additional $162 million in support from the federal government, bringing spending for education up by $433 million. In short, Nevada is spending $271 million to get $162 million.

Now, will policymakers follow up on these spending increases by requiring school districts to prove that their programs work? After all, how much we spend matters much less than how effectively we spend the money. To put it another way, we can spend millions of dollars on programs that don’t work, or spend money on programs that do work.

Carson City has yet to prove the spending works.