The Clark County School District is putting out fake news, and you’re paying for it.
Last Thursday, trustees held a press conference and demanded that Gov. Brian Sandoval call a special session to provide money for teacher raises. District officials used outright falsehoods to make their case.
“Trustees noted that in Nevada — like in Arizona and other states — education budgets still have not recovered to funding levels before the Great Recession in 2008,” said its press release. “CCSD has been forced to cut more than $770 million from its budget since 2009 because of reduced revenue funding.”
Not true. The district’s general fund budget peaked in the 2009-10 school year at $2.16 billion. It dipped slightly and then increased. This year, its general fund is $2.44 billion. Even using public school math, that’s a $280 million increase. That $770 million that supposedly has been “cut” is mostly desired spending increases that didn’t come to pass. That’s like saying you took a $1 million pay cut because you wanted a pay increase of more than $1 million but got only a few thousand. In the real world, that’s a spending increase.
That’s exactly what happened this school year. The district wanted to spend almost $200 million more than last year. It ended up receiving enough to spend only $134 million more. That’s where the $60 million in “cuts” came from.
Trustees also trotted out a deception about recreational marijuana money.
“It’s important for state lawmakers to consider the intent of voters when they supported the marijuana initiative — the vast majority thought this would generate more money for schools, not go into an account and supplant other funds,” said Trustee Lola Brooks in a statement.
One obvious problem. Nevada’s constitution prohibits the Legislature from changing initiatives for three years. What trustees are referring to is an additional tax on marijuana that Sandoval proposed two months after the election. The voters didn’t intend for that tax to go anywhere. It didn’t exist when they voted.
Sandoval originally put his new tax in the distributive school account, but it ended up in the rainy day fund. The DSA then received an equivalent amount of general fund money. Given the setup of the DSA, even if the pot tax tripled its projected revenue, total school funding wouldn’t have changed.
Yes, this is all a bit detailed. That’s why it’s so important to point out that the professionals are using dishonest statements to deceive you.
What’s ironic is that trustees hinted at the root of the problem — the raises handed out by an unelected, unaccountable, out-of-state arbitrator. On Monday, the district lost another arbitration case. Without cuts, these awards will push the district’s ending fund balance to under $5 million — or less than 18 hours’ worth of expenses.
“It is not responsible — or ethical — for us to lay off some employees in order to pay for raises for other employees,” said district CFO Jason Goudie.
Exactly. But collective bargaining, not a lack of funding, is causing these problems. Give the district more money, and its unions will demand larger raises. Trustees are notably silent on the negative impacts of collective bargaining.
Instead, trustees pointed the finger at Sandoval, even though he signed the largest tax increase in Nevada history three years ago, specifically to fund education. For conservatives, there’s poetic justice in Sandoval’s legacy as the “education governor” going up in flames before his term is even over. In 2015, Sandoval had a chance to reform collective bargaining. He chose massive tax hikes. Now, according to a source, he’s reduced to warning trustees that if they succeed in forcing a special session, he’ll include a bill that would make trustees appointed instead of elected.
Until those involved point out that collective bargaining has the district on the verge of financial collapse, the infighting and manipulation of numbers will continue.
Victor Joecks’ column appears each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 9 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.