The Clark County School District’s budget woes have intensified the perpetual debate about state education funding. What too often gets short shrift, however, is the concurrent discussion on accountability.
Self-described education advocates are primarily concerned about infusing the system with more money, arguing that its shortcomings stem from the miserly tendency of Nevadans to resist higher taxes.
“At the end of the day, no kid is funded at a sufficient level in Nevada for that kid to be able to have an opportunity (for) a successful education,” Sylvia Lazos, policy director for Education Nevada Now, told the Review-Journal.
Yet Ms. Lazos’ contention is ridiculous. In fact, a great many Clark County students flourish and prosper in their studies and go on to become accomplished and successful adults. What point is served by the fallacious assertion that all state schoolchildren are doomed to failure thanks to the frugality of Nevada taxpayers?
Rewind many years back when teacher union officials were pushing a proposed ballot question to raise taxes for state schools. During a discussion with the Review-Journal editorial board, one union official shrugged off questions about what taxpayers could expect in return for their increased contributions. “You just give us the money, and we’ll take it from there,” she said.
That haughty attitude seems to permeate this discussion.
For decades, legislative Democrats have done nothing in the face of dismal student test results except point fingers at taxpayers. As local pundit and blogger Thomas Mitchell points out, per pupil funding has, in reality, tripled since 1967 when adjusted for inflation. What has happened to test scores? At the same time, bills pushing policy changes or education reform have died quiet deaths, particularly in the Assembly, where teacher unions rule the halls.
In 2015, however, Republicans gained control in Carson City for the first time in two generations. GOP lawmakers risked their political careers to pass the largest tax increase in state history, a $1.5 billion package to raise funds for schools. In return, they and Gov. Brian Sandoval also secured a handful of reforms intended to improve outcomes. Two years later, the Clark County School District is crying poverty and legislative Democrats — now in the majority — have eroded many of the reforms, all after cynically hammering Republican lawmakers on the campaign trail for raising taxes.
The progressive group Nevada Forward advocates for an additional $1.3 billion for state schools. Ms. Lazos and company have put forth a similar number. But as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, you can bet that, were Nevadans to open their wallets to such an extent, entrenched education interests would soon be banging their tin cups once again.
Many state taxpayers will continue to be skeptical of calls for higher and higher education spending until they feel some assurances that the money will produce results and that policies intended to foster accountability are enacted and prioritized. “Just give us the money, and we’ll take it from there” won’t cut it.