Newspaper column: Education savings accounts would increase public school funds

Nevada’s education savings account (ESA) law is in dire straits thanks to a convoluted state Supreme Court ruling that said ESAs are constitutional but the funding mechanism devised by lawmakers was not and the fact that this year’s roster of lawmakers, who could fix that funding flaw, includes a majority of Democrats in both the Assembly and state Senate. Not a single Democrat voted for the ESA law in 2015.

Disturbingly, the argument being foisted by the opponents of ESAs is a bald-faced lie.

The opponents posit that letting parents keep a small portion of their tax money to allow them to take their children out of public schools and spend that money on private schooling, tutoring or even home schooling reduces the funds to support public education. In reality, the exact opposite is the case. Per pupil funding would actually increase.

Under the law, parents who opt out of sending their children to public schools would be given an education savings account that would equal a portion of the statewide average the state spends per public school pupil, currently that is about $5,700. Low-income parents and parents with special needs children would get 100 percent of that amount, while all others would get 90 percent, or about $5,100 currently.

Thus far, about 8,000 families have applied for ESAs.

This past month ESA opponents sent a letter to state Attorney General Adam Laxalt and state Treasurer Dan Schwartz demanding Schwartz stop accepting applications for ESAs while the law is in limbo.

In an accompanying press release, UNLV law professor Sylvia Lazos, policy director for Educate Nevada Now, one of the litigants that challenged the ESA law, declared, “It’s time for Treasurer Schwartz to face the fact that ESA vouchers were declared unconstitutional because they would have drained tens of millions of dollars from Nevada’s public schools, with Clark County schools losing over $30 million in the first year alone. By blocking this program, we’ve prevented further cuts to public school budgets, which would have increased class sizes and reduced essential programs for students, including English language learners and other students in need of additional supports.”

The problem with this is that the ESAs are earmarked only to state funding — and only 90 percent of that in the vast majority of cases — and have no impact whatsoever on public school funds derived from local taxes and federal revenue.

According to National Education Association’s most recent figures, Nevada public schools spend nearly $9,000 per pupil on average. So, for every pupil who takes the $5,100 savings account, there is about $3,900 more in funding for public education for those who remain — in less crowded classrooms.

In fact, the impact is far greater in many rural counties where the ratio of local funding is even greater due to mining related tax revenue and other factors. According to data for fiscal year 2014 provided to lawmakers by the Legislative Counsel Bureau, local revenue accounts for more than 80 percent of public school funding in Eureka, Humboldt and Lander counties, while the state provides only 10 percent or less.

The state provides about half or more of the K-12 funding in Churchill, Lincoln, Lyon, Mineral, Nye, Pershing and White Pine. Statewide, federal revenue accounts for more than 9 percent of funding.

This discrepancy is even more pronounced when one takes into account that state funding for each school district is adjusted to account for lower local revenue and higher costs, such as transportation in rural areas.

The distributive school account approved in 2015, for example, sets aside for Esmeralda County $24,331 per pupil; Lincoln, $10,534; White Pine, $7,799; Eureka, $9,633; Mineral, $8,980; Clark $5,512; but Lander gets only $4,374.

But the education savings account in each of those counties is still only 90 percent of the statewide average, or $5,100.

Thus, when public schools have fewer pupils to teach, transport and feed, there is more money for those remaining.

So, when lawmakers meet in Carson City in the coming weeks they should take the opportunity to increase K-12 per pupil funding by finding a constitutional funding source for education savings accounts.

It is simple math.


A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.


13 comments on “Newspaper column: Education savings accounts would increase public school funds

  1. Bruce Feher says:

    So the Party that touts the mantra, “for the children” is as usual full of it! Why do these folks want to keep our educational system dead last?

  2. deleted says:

    Thomas you’re an intelligent guy. Why do you keep repeating something this absurd.

    If two people live together in an apartment, sharing all costs equally, and one leaves and tells the other one that they will continue to pay 10% of the costs, are you really suggesting that the remaining person can live the same as they did before?

    The math isn’t simple, it just isn’t so.

  3. bc says:

    Of the local funding listed, is this all operating funds or are bond issue and capital funds included? If so that would distort the percentages. Listing all of the rural counties is not all that relevant as most of this will concern Washoe and Clark as that is where most of the private schools will be.

    Where the loss of funding for public schools comes into play is for parents that intend to enroll their children into private school and can now simply do pre K or Kindergarten at the local school then move on to the private school of their choice with a state subsidy for the next 12 years.

    I still wonder about the statistics being thrown around stating that Nevada is dead last, (Twain’s remark of “lies, damn lies and statistics keeps coming to mind). My kids attended schools all over the country including Nevada and what I saw in Nevada was comparable to everywhere else we lived.

  4. Barbara says:

    Bruce – just as Obamacare was not about healthcare, the education establishment is not about education. it is about political power and indoctrination of our youth to a liberal, socialist ideology which seeks to transform our culture and our ability to self-govern.

  5. It’s fairly obvious from the example cited…he who must not be named, must be a product of the public school system.

  6. Steve says:

    When told to solve for “x” he always asked “Y” !

    Like Yucca, not dead; defunded…and still alive.

  7. deleted says:


    Well can you explain why my example is flawed?

  8. Steve says:

    Brien will do nicely.
    I will say, you are trying to make an apples to oranges comparison.

    And you are being totally disingenuous in your attempt, you f’n idiot.

  9. Steve says:

    OK, lets pick shammy’s orange and apply it to the apple.

    Federal, State and Local government each fund public schools on a per person basis.
    Per person, there are 3 sources of funding, not one.
    For two people this means 6 sources of funding, not two.

    2 people rent apartment.
    Each has 3 paychecks.
    1 moves out, taking 70% of the main paycheck leaving 2.3 paychecks and all the furniture with the remaining renter.
    The remaining renter now has 5.3 paychecks, significantly improving lifestyle while gaining more, fully furnished, living space.
    The renter who moved out loses the living space, furniture and 2.3 paychecks in a search for more suitable arrangements.

    Now, lets say one of those paychecks is forfeited when one renter moves out. (Federal money per pupil is dropped with school district population)
    This leaves the remaining renter with 4.3 paychecks instead of 5.3 and that renter still has more living space and more money than the renter who moved out with 70% of the main paycheck.
    And that Federal money is usable elsewhere.

    No matter how it’s cut, for each person who takes the ESA and leaves the public school the public schools increase their remaining per person funding under the ESA program as written.

    Now, as adjudicated, it appears the public schools stand to keep 100% of all funding and new revenue is needed to fund ESA’s, meaning new revenue sources or cuts in other places.
    Shammy, you are an incomplete idiot.

  10. Rincon says:

    The remaining renter seems to be stuck paying full rent and utilities with his 4.3 – 5.3 paychecks. The economics looks like it boils down to the proportion of fixed vs variable expenses. I don’t see how a conclusion can be reached without the numbers.

  11. Steve says:

    Like all school districts everywhere, rent and utilities are not part of the education cost.
    Those would constitute yet another paycheck, not transferable and fully covering all building and maintenance costs.

    You attempted to add a cheery to the mix.

  12. deleted says:

    Rincon there is no “4.3-5.3” paychecks involved. The numbers are just as I said; the same everything, with one fewer student and 45% less money.

  13. Steve says:

    Patrick ignores facts, par for the course he claims to own.

    Public school funding in the USA consists of three sources, Federal, State and Local.

    Moreover, building and maintenance are a separate budget.

    As usual,
    Patrick wants to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.

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