In effort to hurt margin tax, LVGEA boss resorts to sophistry

Yes, I get that all of Nevada's business leaders want to kill The Education Initiative (I bet they love how that sounds).

And I get that the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, the southern chapter of the margin tax killing machine, would love to change the subject to the archaic statewide education funding formula known as The Nevada Plan.

But this is not just apples and oranges; it is millions and billions.

And on Tuesday, after Clark County School Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky spoke to the group, LVGEA's leader, Tom Skancke, went off the reservation and may have helped those he wanted to hurt.

Skancke invoked Esmeralda County as a perfect example of funding inequities. "If the margins tax should pass — and it shouldn’t — there’s no guarantee that the funding amount to Esmeralda County will go down,” Skancke said. “There’s no guarantee that money will come here.”

And even if it did, it's a pittance. As I told premium subscribers to this site weeks ago: Esmeralda may get $38,000 per student, but there are only 67 students, so that is only $2 million. Pilfering some of that would do little for Clark and devastate that rural area.

Clark County officials have never suggested that rural students have excessive funding. They have always maintained instead that southern schools need more money, and in recent years, they have targeted funding for English Language Learner students, which an interim panel is examining. They don't want to redivide the pie; they want to expand it.

Skancke's attempt to make the case against TEI and for a funding formula change did not go unnoticed by margin tax campaign guru Dan Hart, who sent out a release: “I hope Mr. Skancke realizes that there are less (sic) than 100 students in Esmeralda County and because there is no high school, students in grades 9-12 need to be bussed (sic) to other counties. With over 300,000 students in Clark, we could eliminate funding for Esmeralda and it would only raise per pupil funding by a couple of dollars.”


As Legislative Counsel Bureau boss Rick Combs told me back in November, “The Nevada Plan is not designed to ensure that every district receives a similar amount of state funding per pupil or to ensure that school districts all have the same amount to spend per pupil on education.  Instead, the goal is to ensure that each pupil in Nevada regardless of where he or she lives is afforded a 'reasonably equal educational opportunity'.

“So, in addition to taking into account the differing levels of wealth in the various school districts, the plan also takes into account the fact that it costs different amounts to educate a pupil in each of the districts.  How well the plan takes costs into account is one of the subjects being debated now.”

I also wrote about how the Nevada Plan has no formula for capital expenditures, so each district fends for itself – see the recent AB 46 debacle in Washoe County.

Or as Guy Hobbs, the longtime financial expert who actually understands the arcane formula, told me at the time: “There is a wealth factor or adjustment that is used in the formula, based upon the relative ability of a school district to generate revenues.  Since this factor is used, it is fair to say that it has a hand in determining the differences in actual state support that goes to each district.  Clearly, the biggest factor in creating the differences in relative support to each district is the ability of the district to generate sales and property tax revenue (otherwise offsetting the direct state support).  This line between what the state refers to as state support versus local support is an illusion at best.  It is the state that has set the sales and property tax rates for all of the districts and it is the state that has determined that the revenues generated by these sources shall be deducted from the state’s direct support through the DSA.  Thus, the 'local' revenues, in my mind, are really state revenues that are used to offset its otherwise funding requirement.”

The LVGEA -- and others -- needs to change its spin. The margin tax may need a "job-killing" preface; at least that's debatable. But changing the Nevada Plan is not a solution to the chronic underfunding of Clark County schools.


For those who want even more information on The Nevada Plan, check out this link.

Table #1.1 gives you the best snapshot of the per pupil operating expenditures incurred by the districts in FY 2012.  Table #2.1 a provides the information in the same format as it is presented in the Education Data Book.  Table #3.1  provides by district the percentage to total operating expenditures for six programs.  Finally, Table #4.1 provides the total enrollment by school district.