If you’re excited that Nevada lawmakers will be spending more money on education, ask yourself a simple question: why?
Legislators of both parties could hardly hold back after recently adding $ 500 million to the state’s education budget. “I’ve waited a hell of a long time to put that amount of money into education,” said Maggie Carlton, chairman of the Congregation’s Ways and Means Committee.
“It’s not every day that you do something that is of great importance to students,” said Ben Kieckhefer, a Republican, “but I think today is one of those days.”
This is not a rhetorical question. In many cases there is a clear correlation between higher spending and improved quality. If your budget for dinner is between $ 10 and $ 20, you can go to a different restaurant. As your vehicle budget increases by $ 2,000, you have more options. Even if you spend $ 1 more on a tube of toothpaste, you have more choices.
This is because in most areas of life there are multiple companies that offer goods and services. Competition helps to control costs and increase quality. A company that offers an inferior product at a higher price will soon go out of business.
The opposite is the case with traditional Nevada public schools. Overall, they have done a terrible job for decades, despite the heroic efforts of individual teachers and the pockets of high quality schools. While such a track record would be fatal for a private company competing for customers, it is normal business for a pseudo-monopoly. The educational institution uses its own failure as evidence that it needs more resources.
What Nevada students really need is more options. Charter and private schools offer a way out for some children, but the vast majority of Nevada students receive traditional public schooling.
Unfortunately, with these additional funds, Nevada lawmakers are not offering any further options. They pour them into a broken system. So what happens to the money when it reaches the school district?
It could be one thing if district officials could spend that money at their own discretion. Perhaps they would make some changes, such as extending the school day in underperforming schools. But first the district has to negotiate contracts with its employee unions.
The Clark County Education Association operates the Teachers Health Trust. Money has been bleeding for years. The district recently Prepaid three months’ worth of health insurance premiums to help the trust pay its bills.
It is likely that the union’s top priority in contract negotiations will be to increase health insurance contributions. After that, it will likely demand higher wages for existing employees. Expect similar demands from the other employee unions in the district.
The district can’t just say no. If the district and a union cannot reach an agreement, the dispute goes to an unelected, unaccountable arbitrator. The first thing the arbitrator considers under state law is the “solvency” of the district.
When school districts get more unconditional dollars, the same people get paid more to do the same. No wonder more spending doesn’t mean better results.
In two years, the cycle will repeat itself thanks to the collective amnesia of the main characters. The school will claim its failures were due to lack of funds. Legislators will pretend this is the first time anyone has thought of increasing spending on education. The unions will withdraw most of the unrestricted dollars during the contract negotiations.
You can confirm this pattern with a quick Google search. In 2015, lawmakers approved a $ 1.3 billion tax hike package, mainly to top up education funding. Carlton called the “historical”. Last meeting, Governor Steve Sisolak boasted on signing “Largest Public Education Budget in Nevada State History.” And yet we’re back – pretending that more money is changing things.
Until more people realize what is happening and ask for more choices for students, this pattern will repeat itself indefinitely.