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To understand why Nevada is ranked the worst for Education, one only has to look at the State’s Washoe County School District (WCSD.) The expense for “Regular Instruction” was $22.5 million less in 2017 than it was in 2008. For next year’s budget, the district that includes Reno/Sparks schools is looking to cut the budget…again. The deficit in the budget is caused by a dysfunctional State taxation system that fails to provide the needed revenue to fund the government.

Graph 1. 0 – WCSD Regular Instructions Expense (Actual vs. 2% adj. for inflation)

Nevada Education Never Fails to Fail

There is one significant item in the school district’s financial reports. Under expenses, WCSD reports “Regular Instruction.” It is the money spent in the classroom for educational functions. It does not include the special education, vocational, nor extra-curricular programs. Regular Instruction expense is the core of the existence of public education in Nevada.

Instruction – Expenditures associated with providing direct regular instruction to students consisting mostly of salaries and benefits for teachers, teacher aides and assistants, as well as other direct instruction costs for supplies, textbooks and equipment. The category also includes costs for teacher substitutes, ROTC teachers, Early Separation Incentive Program (ESIP) costs and sick leave payout. 

Definition of “Regular Instruction” page A15
Fiscal Year 2016-17
Final Budget Summary with Detailed
Budget Accounts and Positions
May 24, 2016

In 2008, the money spent for Regular Instruction in the school district was $249 million. In 2017, only $226.5 million was spent. A reduction of $22.5 million dollars from spending needed ten years prior. Adjusted for two percent inflation per year, the amount of the reduction is $63 million for 2017 fiscal year. The cuts have the forced school district to cut over $475 million dollars in Regular Instruction to keep pace with inflation during the last decade.

Education in Nevada is consistently in the bottom of most State rankings, and deservedly so. The fault is citizens who fail to value education, who elect politicians that seek to dismantle public education. Governor Brian Sandoval has been a primary architect of this effort, which should not be that surprising. When he was elected, his children attended a private religious school. The Legislature decides the funding for education, but they have followed Sandoval’s lead in underfunding public education.

School districts have given up battling the State for more money. Now school boards consist of people who seek to cut budgets instead of demanding more money. School administrations and staff have known for years that the continued deterioration of education is the inevitable path that Nevada has chosen to follow.

Graph 2.0 – Washoe County School District projected expenses for the 2018-19 year

Nevada Education: Constitutionally Protected To Be Bad

There is no positive news regarding Nevada’s Education. It is a black hole of ever-decreasing funding with a Governor leading the charge to let it fail. Nevada’s Constitution says,

The Legislature shall enact one or more appropriations to provide the money the Legislature deems to be sufficient, when combined with the local money reasonably available for this purpose, to fund the operation of the public schools in the State for kindergarten through grade 12.

The Constitution leaves it to the Legislature to decide how much money to make available for education. The politicians feel that being the worst educated State in the Nation is ‘sufficient.’


NOTE:  Discrepancies in Financial Reporting

If someone is interested in reviewing the financial information of the Washoe County School District, they will find it a challenge. Finalized numbers for the same line item for the same year do not match across WCSD documents.

There is one report (used here) that has is an annual report of the finances of the school district. It is called the Comprehensive Financial Annual Report (CFAR) and it is the only WSCD document available online that offers annual financial data for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. It is typically published about four months after the end of the year.

However, other reports, including the budget information for the 2018-19 school year have different values for the same budget item without any explanation. The 2017 CFAR (pg. 8 or pg. 37 on pdf) shows Regular Instruction Expense to be $226.5 million. The 2017-18 Annual Report (pg. 42 or pg. 51 on pdf) shows the 2017 Regular Instruction Expense to be $212.3 million ($14.2 million less.)

There is no explanation given for the discrepancies for the same budget item for the same ‘final’ budget; however, it makes it difficult for anyone from the public to know what number is the actual amount. It also makes it difficult to compare past numbers to future budgets.