For size of its economy Nevada spends remarkably little on education, report says

no income tax tho!
Nevada has a long history of underfunding public education.
no income tax tho!
Nevada has a long history of underfunding public education.

Only four states spend less money on education relative to the size of the state’s economy than Nevada, a report released this month says.

Direct state spending on education as a proportion of gross state product was 2.8 percent in Nevada in 2016. Wyoming led the nation, spending an amount on education equivalent to 5.6 percent of its gross state product. The unweighted national average for all states was 3.5 percent.

The study titled “Adequacy and Fairness in School Finance Systems” also found Nevada ranked 40th in “Adequacy,” which measures state spending on districts relative to other states.

And Nevada ranked 47th in “Progressivity,” which measures how states weigh spending to account for students with disadvantages. For years education advocates in Nevada have called for readjusting the state’s “weighted funding formula.”

The study is the work of the Albert Shanker Institute and the Rutgers Graduate School of Education.

 Nevada was the only state to rank in the bottom ten of each of the study’s three measurements, noted Education Nevada Now, which highlighted the study in a release.

“We’ve known Nevada falls behind in education funding, but it’s especially discouraging to see Nevada ranked towards the bottom in fiscal effort” said Amanda Morgan, legal director at Educate Nevada Now, referring to the spending relative gross state product.

“This means that despite how prosperous our state is, lawmakers choose not to use that wealth to support students. Even as we embark on a historic legislative session and see hundreds of bills being considered, it’s important to note that not one bill seeks to increase education funding,” Morgan said.

Lawmakers and Gov. Steve Sisolak have expressed commitments to reforming Nevada’s education funding formula. But Sisolak also took any new taxes or tax increases off the table before the session began, and advocates that acknowledge that any increased spending on education from this year’s legislative session will fall far short of the state’s needs.

“Changing our distribution without increasing the pie only lowers the bar for all of Nevada,” Morgan said.

In its release, Educate Nevada Now — a creation of the Rogers Foundation and one of the groups that spearheaded the lawsuit that effectively stopped Nevada’s school voucher program before it started — also expresses wariness about the uncertainty surrounding Nevada education funding in the current legislative session.

“We’re more than halfway into session with less than eight weeks left and the bill still hasn’t been introduced,” Morgan said. “This gives very little time to get appropriate stakeholder input on what is arguably the most important bill of the session and perhaps the decade.”

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.


  1. This article addresses educational funding “relative to the size of the state’s economy.” I don’t see that as a valid measure. It is only in the last sentence of the fourth to last paragraph, that there is any mention of “needs,” and that is just a link to another article.
    I haven’t looked in depth into how well Nevada is doing as far as educational accomplishments. Your article is going to result in me looking into that.
    The linked article that I read (Education overhaul Nevada needs requires revenue Nevada doesn’t have
    By April Corbin – March 8, 2019) does eventually touch on one legitimate issue that should be addressed in the legislative arena. It notes that money raised based on it being used for education, does not make it there. That is something that happened in CA while I was there (military). The CA Lottery was promoted as a potential windfall for education, but their education system is actually worse today, based on results. In NV we had both a tax on marijuana and a room tax increase that were both supposed to benefit education funding. Where those went wrong, just like in CA, could be fixed rather easily if the will exists.


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