Las Vegas Review-Journal

‘Ghost’ students show need for school choice

- The views expressed above are those of the Las Vegas Review-journal. All other opinions expressed on the Opinion and Commentary pages are those of the individual artist or author indicated.

What happened in Baltimore recently is an extreme example of why blindly throwing money into a broken education system won’t increase student achievemen­t.

The Baltimore City schools received over $17,000 per pupil in 2019. For comparison, the Clark County School District’s per-pupil spending was about $9,000 in 2020.

According to convention­al wisdom, Baltimore must have a much better education system than

CCSD. After all, their spending is far above the national average, which the Census Bureau estimated was around $13,000 per pupil in 2019.

Nope. Not even close. Just 13 percent of Baltimore’s fourth graders were proficient in reading in 2019. That’s according to the Nation’s

Report Card, formally called the National Assessment of Educationa­l Progress. In Nevada, it was 31 percent. A more apples-to-apples comparison is probably the our local school district, and 30 percent of its fourth graders were proficient in reading.

The education establishm­ent’s obsessive focus on spending obscures the real issue. How money is spent matters more than how much is spent after passing a baseline level of spending.

Digging into what happened in Baltimore shows why. Earlier this year, Fox45, a local television station, reported that Augusta Fells Savage High School was filled with “ghost” students. Those are students who don’t attend the school, but are used to inflate enrollment. The station found that one of the “ghost” students was in jail at the time he was enrolled.

Baltimore City Schools recently released an audit of the school and confirmed that fraud was rampant.

“AFS students were scheduled into classes that did not exist (known at the school as “filler classes”), when they should have been withdrawn due to lack of attendance,” the report found.

In one case, students were recorded as attending a yearbook class from the 2017-2018 to 2019-2020 school years. Neither records nor witnesses were able to verify the class even existed.

The investigat­ion also uncovered that students missing credits were allowed to complete “work packets.” The problem was that wasn’t an accepted way to recover credits. Further, some of the teachers lists on the records insisted they hadn’t taught those classes.

Would throwing money at schools like this improve things?

The needed alternativ­e is school choice. That would let parents spend some of the existing funding at the school of their choice.

School bureaucrac­ies often look down their noses at supposedly uneducated parents, but at least parents know if their children actually exist.

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