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Nevada’s biggest myth debunked

So there’s Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, leprechauns, mermaids, and, of course, the space aliens hidden at Area 51.

But none of those even comes close to the biggest myth in Nevada: the Underfunding Education creature!

Indeed, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s entire $1.3 billion tax hike is being sold based on the myth that Nevada citizens are not paying enough for public education. And the governor is so good at spinning this yarn — originally invented by the teachers’ union — that lots of people in Nevada have bought into it: the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Association of Nevada, even some Republican state legislators who should know better.

Fortunately, I happen to know an expert mythbuster by the name of Victor Joecks over at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. And Joecks has uncovered evidence that Nevada taxpayers are overspending on public education.

According to figures compiled in October by the Legislative Counsel Bureau, Nevada taxpayers spent $8,781 per student in 2011, the last year figures were available. And thanks to grants and additional federal assistance for our worst-performing schools, that amount is probably closer to $15,000 per student in many schools.

So let’s do a little math, shall we? Class, take out your No. 2 pencils.

OK, let’s say there are 30 kids in a given Nevada classroom, about the average size when I was a kid before all the whining and bellyaching about “class size reduction.”

And since most of us went to a public school long ago, let’s make this math problem a little easier by rounding off the per-student figure to $9,000. So 30 times 9,000 equals 270,000.

That means Nevada taxpayers are providing, at a minimum, a whopping $270,000 per year to educate those 30 kids. And in some low-income and minority communities, that figure is probably closer to almost a half-million dollars.

For one classroom!

Now, most teachers are seriously underpaid. I don’t know the exact starting salary, but let’s say it’s $50,000 per year. That means you could double the teacher’s pay to six figures and still have another $170,000-plus to spend in the classroom to teach Johnny to read, write and do arithmetic.

It’s simple math. The problem isn’t that we’re underfunding education. The problem is we’re overfunding the education bureaucracy.

Alas, despite the fact that no actual proof exists that the Underfunding Education creature exists, some naïve people, especially our governor, believe this myth with every bit as much conviction as some people believe in Bigfoot.

At least you and I don’t have to pay for people’s belief in Bigfoot. But when it comes to funding public education ...

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization. He can be reached at www.muthstruths.com.