Sometimes government simply isn't capable of reinventing itself on its own. Sometimes it takes an outsider's perspective to identify shortcomings and potential improvements.
So give state lawmakers credit for hiring a consultant to examine Nevada's public school funding formula, which hasn't changed much at all over the past 45 years. American Institutes for Research presented their findings to legislators Tuesday. Among them:
- The state overpays rural teachers.
- Nevada underfunds the education of poor students and English language learners.
- Clark County subsidizes other school districts at the expense of its own students. (What a surprise.)
Among the consultants' recommendations:
- Weighting the cost of educating students, doubling funding for non-English speakers and raising it 34 percent for students from low-income families.
- Cutting funding for rural "districts that in actuality have lower than average labor costs."
"These suggestions would take some serious policy adjustments," said American Institutes for Research investigator Jay Chambers, who presented the study.
A bill to enact these changes would set off a regional battle in the Legislature, pitting Clark County against the rest of the state, that inevitably would spill into other policy issues. By the study's own estimates, rural districts would be stripped of thousands of dollars per student to give Clark County a few hundred dollars more per child. Washoe County would lose almost $100 per student.
Despite the political challenges, these ideas should get committee hearings. The alternative is for lawmakers to put the study on top of the dusty pile of money-wasting reports they've commissioned and ignored over the decades. Nevada taxpayers deserve better than that.