High funding and low dropouts unrelated

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” —William Shakespeare

As of this writing, Senate Bill 141 was axed in committee by a vote of 13-8. If you have been keeping score this legislative session, SB141 was the bill that would have funneled more money into the school district’s coffers.

Specifically, the bill included three tax hikes: a quarter-cent sales tax increase, a $1,600 new-home construction “impact fee” and a real estate transfer tax of roughly 50 cents for every $300 in selling price. Now as you know, your host despises taxes—no matter what moniker tax happy legislators slap on them. He also despises legislators who advocate them—particularly when they’re passed without any corresponding accountability. (It’s no secret that those who get to spend taxpayer dollars routinely do so with all the abandon of a drunken sailor on shore leave.)

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, state Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno, and state Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, voted for it.

Maurice Washington, R-Sparks and chairman of the Senate Human Resources and Education Committee, said the school district didn’t convince him that they’d made a case publicly before approaching the Legislature.

“The reason I voted against it was because the school district did not articulate their case,” he said. “They made their pitch to the Legislature but never made it to the public.”

“I was just stunned to see SB 141 go down, watching it on the legislative Web site.” So sayeth Shirley Beasley of Reno, a mother of three school-aged children, on the steps of the Legislature Building in Carson City in a recent Reno Gazette-Journal report after the bill went down in flames.

“If the Senate won’t pass it out, and the Legislature won’t send it to a vote of the people, how are we going to solve the problem?”

OK, first, let’s realize that the “problem,” at least as I see it, is that every legislative session, both the school district and the Nevada Education Association (NEA) scream poverty. Now, lest your host be viewed as the heartless man of questionable parental lineage, let me first say that I have nothing against schools or educating kids. In fact I’m all for it. A decent education is, after all, the hallmark of earning a living and, of course, staying off the welfare dime.

On the other hand, I detest waste and government monopolies. And the school system is the biggest purveyor and example of both.

And yet, according to the district, schools are facing a $500 million shortfall through fiscal year 2012.

OK. According to my research the state receives roughly $7,500 per student. For a class of 25 that’s about $187,000 per classroom. Multiply that by the district’s 63,000-plus students, and yet the district can’t make do?

If you think the district is doing such a horrendous job with all their funding woes, consider that in the 1995–1996 school year, the high school drop-out rate was 8.1 percent. By the 1999-2000 year, that figure was 5.2 percent. And in the 2001-2002 year it had dropped to 3.5 percent.

Also according to the district, the ACT scores for 2003 averaged 22.2 for Washoe County students as opposed to statewide scores of 21.3 and 20.8 nationwide.

SAT scores for the same year averaged 539 verbal and 550 math for district students as opposed to the statewide averages of 510/517 and 507/519 nationwide.

Oh yes, and the high school proficiency exam for the same year? The 2003 graduating class averaged passing scores for reading of 99.9 percent, writing at 99.9 percent and math at 96.0 percent.

And that perhaps brings us back to Shakespeare’s quote.