EDITORIAL: Education’s trust issues

The political challenges of improving educational funding and outcomes were outlined in Saturday’s edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, in plain black and white.

On Page 1A, Trevon Milliard reported that the state of Nevada will provide the Clark County School District with less per-student funding than previously pledged for this school year — $17 less per child, for a total shortfall of $5.4 million. That notification, which came Friday, raised the hackles of the Clark County School Board, with Trustee Carolyn Edwards criticizing the state for the miscalculation. “We’re supposed to plan a budget on ‘oops?’” she asked.

Yet on Page 2B of Saturday’s Review-Journal, Mr. Milliard reported that, late Thursday night, the School Board approved a 2.79 percent across-the-board pay increase for the school district’s 1,300 administrators, at a cost of — wait for it — $5.29 million. The cost of the per-student shortfall and the administrative raises are practically identical.

We keep hearing the school district is underfunded to the point of crisis, its $2.2 billion budget stretched so thin the system can’t afford even routine maintenance on buildings and equipment. Yet the School Board continues to hand out pay raises to bargaining groups while complaining about being unprepared for the unexpected.

The truth is trustees are intentionally unprepared for the expected because they so poorly prioritize their spending. The pay raise for administrators was exactly the kind of action that School Board members should have tabled.

Worse still, the pay increase comes with no accountability whatsoever, giving everybody a nice bump rather than rewarding only those who have earned it. Blanket pay raises with no nexus to performance provide no return on investment and do nothing to boost student achievement. Similarly, the school district’s 18,000 teachers received a $54 million compensation increase last month that included a 1 percent across-the-board pay raise. Again, merit pay was not part of the equation.

Set aside the fact that government supervisors shouldn’t be able to unionize in the first place. If the School Board wants to help Gov. Brian Sandoval and the 2015 Legislature make the case for improved education funding, it must be more careful with taxpayer money. Nevada’s education system has a trust problem, and trustees aren’t helping.

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