No ‘national average’ for school funding
October 5, 2004
When it comes to ideas for improving the quality of education in Nevada, few are as meaningless, or potentially ruinous, as Question 2 on the November ballot. It fails to make the grade in nearly every aspect and should be soundly defeated by voters.
Question 2 would amend the state constitution to require annual per-pupil expenditures in elementary and secondary schools equal or exceed the national average by 2012.
If ever a proposal said, “Let’s throw money at the problem,” this is it. And nobody even knows how much money.
Had the amendment been in place for 2004-05, Nevada would have needed to add $681 million, a 25 percent increase, to the schools fund. But because the proposed amendment postpones its deadline to 2012, there is no guess as to how much it might require by then.
Other guesswork left by Question 2:
— The national average is a moving target, with per-pupil expenditures figured differently by different states. It will always go up, with Nevada tied to whatever taxpayers in other states are willing to spend.
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— There is no plan for how this money is to be spent. One presumes it will go primarily toward teacher salaries, as these are the bulk of education expenditures now.
— There is no established correlation between spending on education and improved results for students. As critics point out, some of the highest-spending states also are among the lowest scoring.
— Question 2 particularly has no correlation to performance, as it contains no provisions to measure accountability or productivity.
— While it ties the hands of state legislators on the funding side, it offers no proposal on the revenue side. We must presume Question 2 is either a call for massive tax increases, near the magnitude of the record increases approved by the 2003 Legislature, or for an equally dramatic cut in other state services.
The 2003 Legislature boosted education funding substantially. Both state and federal reforms are in place.
Nevada voters must turn down Question 2, one of the most fiscally irresponsible ballot initiatives we’ve seen in a long time.