According to a statement issued yesterday, our Clark County School District currently has a deficit of around $43 million. How did this happen? District representatives claim they came short because this year’s government funding allocation wasn’t nearly as much as they had expected. An end-of-year arbitration ruling with an administrators’ union was also cited as a reason for the unbalanced budget.
In case you were wondering, yes, CCSD has been facing budgeting issues since long before this crisis. Here are some statistics to consider. According to the US Department of Education, the Clark County School District is the fifth largest school district in the country with around 325,000 students, behind Miami-Dade county with 357,000, Chicago with 393,000, Los Angeles Unified with 647,000, and finally the New York City Department of Education with nearly 1.1 million students. However, among the largest school districts, CCSD has by far the least amount of money to work with to teach its students.
Take a look at this graph for some context:
*Listed in order of decreasing total population count; data from Public Education Finances report: 2014 US Census Bureau
Out of these top five districts by population, CCSD enjoys by far the worst per-pupil budget allocation, meaning that in Vegas, students in public education are taught with the least resources of any school even close to its population.
So, what does CCSD spend most of its money on? According to the CCSD website, 87% of the district’s unrestricted funds – money distributed to schools to be used at their discretion – go to paying employees, including teachers, administrators, custodial staff, among others. Now, you might be saying to yourself, ‘There’s the problem! CCSD is paying too many people!’ However, CCSD has far fewer employees per student than most other large urban school districts. This graph shows the number of students per administrator in large school districts:
On average, CCSD hires one administrator for every 379 students enrolled, in comparison to districts like Chicago Public Schools, which hires one for every 152. This means that despite allocating most of its smaller per-student budget to employees, still CCSD has far fewer employees than other large urban school districts around the US.
In light of this educational financial disaster, the district is now enacting a hiring freeze – meaning they’ve stopped hiring new employees – and asking its constituents (you, me, your parents, your teachers, your dog, etc.) to step up and make some decisions. No pressure.
In a survey issued here, CCSD has listed eleven main options for cutting costs in schools. Here were some of the most economical options:
- $19 million – eliminate additional staffing in magnet schools
- $14 million – close all CCSD buildings over holiday
- $13 million – eliminate gifted and talented education
- $8 million – reduce work year for all employees by one day
Other cost-cutting measures included elimination of non-magnet busing, reduction of adult education programs, and cut-downs on the number of games in sporting seasons. The district is asking Clark County citizens for their personal preferences as to what gets cut. In the survey, respondents are asked to rank the measures from 1 to 11, 1 being their first choice for what gets cut.
While some of these options might seem like quick solutions, it’s important to consider that every one has its consequences. For example, $14 million just to close CCSD buildings on holidays might seem like a no-brainer, but this also means that administrators lose around a week of paid work days annually. In times like these, deliberate and sensitive considerations must be made – remember that every option you choose has important tradeoffs that cannot afford to be ignored.
But the first step is to make a decision. Take the survey today to make a difference in your school, your district, and your community. Make recommendations in the survey’s third question as well. Make your voices heard, take this as an opportunity to ensure that the district eliminates spending habits you believe are unnecessary. If you don’t, you might arrive at school next year to find your football season cut short, or an extracurricular program you care about entirely eliminated. Take this survey as an opportunity to enter the discussion, and to ensure on behalf of students across the valley that funds are allocated to improvement of your education.
No one wants to be $52 million short, but now that we are, this is your chance make a change.