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WCSD actual spending per student: $13,000 yearly
by Ira Hansen
Jan 16, 2010 | 1067 views | 1 1 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a day when everyone is pinching pennies, there should be no sacred cows. The biggest budget item in Nevada is education and the typically held view is, if anything, we need to spend more, not less.

While that attitude predominates, it is based on limited, if any, exposure to the true numbers.

So, what exactly do we spend right here in the Washoe County School District (WCSD) on kindergarten through 12th grade?

The WCSD is made up of 64 elementary schools, 16 middle schools, 12 high schools and one special education school. There are 7,200 full-time employees and 65,000 kids enrolled. Teacher’s salaries (not including benefits) start at $32,656 and top out at $70,344. Administrators start at $68,000 and top out at $140,000. An excellent retirement program and benefit package add at least 30 to 40 percent to these salaries. These contracts are for a 185-day work year. (A normal work year for most is 240 days).

So, in the WCSD there is one full-time employee for every 9 students.

Now, the budget. You will hear the WCSD folks talk about one budget only, the “general gunned.” They take that fund, divide it by the number of students enrolled, and use that figure as the “per pupil”  expenditure.

Right now, the general fund is $440 million. Divide that by 65,000 students and per pupil spending for Washoe County is $6,800 per student. That’s typically the figure used to tell what a lousy job we are doing — Nevada always ranks down at the bottom on spending for government schools.

But dig a little deeper — which is exactly what the educational bureaucracy does not want you to do — and you discover a deception being pawned off on gullible taxpayers.

The “general fund” you discover is only one of many funds. In fact, there are nine additional funds not mentioned in their official press releases about per pupil spending.

These include the building and sites fund, capital projects fund, special revenue fund, special education fund, class-size reduction fund, debt service fund, internal service fund, enterprise fund and the OPED (retirement) fund.

Add up the grand total for all the funds and spending by the WCSD for fiscal year 2009-2010 is a whopping $848,735,280, or $13,057 per pupil.

Exactly why they tell half truths about spending and leave out the big picture is not really a mystery. When people discover the true costs and see the results a simple cost/benefit analysis tells them something doesn’t quite add up. Plus it messes up the teachers union’s annual pitch about how underfunded everything is.

With spending totaling more than $13,000 per pupil per year, crying about not having enough left for pencils and paper doesn’t draw much sympathy either. Simply cutting two or three top level administrators would free up an amount equal to the total currently spent on “miscellaneous supplies” for 65,000 students.

Incidentally, you don’t have to take my word for these numbers. WCSD files a yearly spending summary with the Nevada Department of Taxation. Simply look it up on their Web site.

Keep all this in mind when the next proposed school bond is on the ballot.

Ira Hansen is a lifelong resident of Sparks and owner of Ira Hansen and Sons Plumbing. You can reach him at
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January 28, 2011
We get what we pay for, our money per student ratio is low among the states and our standing in education is equally low. Let's stay at the bottom so the rich can keep more money and stay at the top.
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