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Cost Function Analysis of State of Nevada Elementary and Secondary School Finance System

Wen Wang
Assistant Professor
School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
801 West Michigan Street, BS 4074
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Email: wang516@iupui.edu
Phone: 317-274-1078

   Anna Lukemeyer
Department of Public Administration
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
4505 Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89154-4030
Email: anna.lukemeyer@unlv.edu
Phone: 702-895-3046 

Project Description

Wen and Ann will conduct a study using existing quantitative data to estimate the cost of providing students a reasonable opportunity to reach targeted state performance indicators in Nevada. The study will provide estimated funding adjustments to allow an equivalent opportunity to attain that same level of achievement to students who fall into the following groups: English language learners, students from low-income families and special education students. To the extent possible, the study will provide additional adjustments for students attending with concentrated poverty or other disadvantages. The researchers of this study will identify and develop a specific, policy-relevant operational definition of “adequacy” after careful review of available data and in consultation with key stakeholders.

Project Objectives

A primary objective of this study is to estimate, based on empirical data, the cost of providing an “adequate” education to Nevada students. 

  1. An “adequate” education is defined as one that enables students to reach a specified level of achievement on selected performance measures. The level of achievement and the performance measures used to define “adequacy” will be drawn from existing state and federal accountability standards, such as the Nevada Student Performance Framework. The researchers will identify and develop a specific, policy relevant operational definition of “adequacy” after careful review of available data and in consultation with the Lincy Institute and other relevant stakeholders.
  2. Assuming the necessary data are available, the study will estimate the cost of providing an adequate education (as defined above) to a hypothetical “average” or “typical” Nevada student, controlling for other factors (described in Section II below) that affect the cost of education.
  3. Assuming the necessary data are available, the study will also provide estimated adjustments to that funding to allow an equivalent opportunity to attain that same level of achievement to students who fall into the following groups: English language learners, students from low-income families and special education students. To the extent possible, the study will also provide additional adjustments for students attending schools with concentrated poverty or other disadvantages.

Use and Distribution of Results

Successful completion of this project should result in two major deliverables. The first is development of a dataset for Nevada that allows a rich variety of policy-relevant research concerning school funding and school performance. Secondly, the proposed project will provide the cost estimates described in the objectives. The researchers will present these estimates, as well as relevant descriptive data about Nevada school funding, characteristics and performance, in a written report with appropriate figures, tables and information about the researchers' methods. These two deliverables will provide important information relevant to upcoming policy debates regarding Nevada’s school quality and its school funding system. 

Project Funding

The funding of the project is provided by the Lincy Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.