by Las Vegas Review-Journal Editorial Board, October 7, 2022
The most persistent canard from the education establishment is that more taxpayer money will fix the public schools. It’s certainly the well-worn mantra of Nevada activists.
Yet through decades of increased spending and two record tax hikes for public education, test scores designed to measure student achievement remain stagnant in Clark County and the Silver State. That doesn’t mean the public schools don’t need funding, of course, but it helps highlight how the nexus between more revenue and better results remains elusive, at best.
Nevada isn’t an outlier. Consider Illinois, where per-pupil spending is nearly $17,000, eighth-highest in the country and well above Nevada’s $10,300. Teacher salaries in Illinois are also the highest in the Midwest.
A recent report, however, documents how many of the state’s schoolchildren struggle to read despite all that spending. According to a Wirepoints study released in June, just 7 percent of Black third graders in Rockford are proficient in reading. The number is 8 percent in Peoria. In Decatur, only 16 percent of white third graders can read at grade level. In Elgin, the number is 11 percent for Hispanics. Chicago is near the head of the class with a 30 percent proficiency rating for Black students.
These results were from the 2018-19 school year — in other words, pre-pandemic. Lengthy COVID school closures, widespread in the deep blue Land of Lincoln, certainly exacerbated the educational disaster.
In Clark County, by contrast, 39.1 percent of third graders can read at grade level according to 2021-22 test results, including 23.4 percent of Black students and 32.1 percent of Hispanics. Stunningly mediocre, but significantly better than in many Illinois districts where the cash flows more freely.
It’s worth noting that Nevada’s legislative Democrats effectively killed a measure that would have forced struggling third graders to be held back if they weren’t meeting reading proficiency standards. Democrats in Illinois also killed a GOP effort to impose a Read By 3 law.
As a result, the many students who lack reading skills in both Illinois and Nevada are automatically promoted to the next level, where they are set up for failure. This also leaves parents deceived into “believing their kids are being educated simply because they’re advancing,” Wirepoints points out.
No doubt, parental involvement or indifference plays a role in these poor educational outcomes, whether in Nevada or Illinois. But the public school system’s utter lack of accountability remains the glaring constant in underperforming districts across the nation. And all the money in the world won’t fix that.