LAS VEGAS -- Those who advocate diversifying Nevada's economy by improving public education have their work cut out because of the state's subpar rankings in major categories affecting kindergarten through 12th grade students.
An example was Nevada's 44th place ranking in per pupil spending for elementary and secondary education in 2009, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education. Nevada spent $8,321 per student that year, well below the $10,591 national average.
The state placed highest in per pupil spending for school administration, ranking 17th, but was dead last in food services and 45th in spending on instruction.
Nevada's public school teachers in the 2009-2010 school year had the 21st highest average salaries but were still $4,000 below national average. And with first being best, Nevada schools ranked 45th with overall student/teacher ratios of 19.4 to 1, versus 15.4 to 1 nationally.
In the 2008-2009 school year, Nevadans spent only $20.47 per $1,000 of personal income on public school instruction to rank 46th, versus a national average of $25.19.
Nevadans were equally tightfisted in 2010 when it came to state-funded preschool. Of the 40 states with preschool programs, Nevada ranked 33rd by spending only $2,710 per child, more than $1,300 below average. Likewise in 2008 Nevada ranked only 42nd in the number of public library books and serial volumes per resident.
From 2003 through 2011 Nevada 4th and 8th graders in public schools improved their test scores in math and reading. But last year Nevada 4th and 8th graders still ranked only 38th and 41st respectively in math and 45th and 44th respectively in reading.
Nevada's college-bound seniors also remain below average on SAT scores. For the 2009-2010 school year, seniors ranked 37th in reading, 41st in math and 45th in writing.
One of Nevada's most notorious rankings, though, has been with its high school graduation rate, where the state placed last in 2008 at 56.3 percent, compared to 74.7 percent nationally. The high school dropout rate was highest in the state among Hispanic students at 6.7 percent. The latest available graduation data from the National Center for Education Statistics is for 2009, but Nevada didn't respond to data requests for that year.