Monday, January 26, 2009


The town of Mount Charleston, Nevada, appears to be split between people who are mostly solidly middle class and people who are wealthy. But with a population of 240, there aren't many kids in town so the Clark County school district was considering closing the elementary school. The nine students attending the school would have then been bused an appalling 75 minutes each way (along with middle school and high school kids) to the closest public elementary school. (I'm not sure why that's acceptable for the older kids; but perhaps it's because they never had a local middle school or high school in town.) For now, the school will remain open.
Lundy's per-pupil cost is estimated at more than three times the district average. The district expects that closing Lundy would save about $240,000 a year.
Let's hear a parent's perspective:
Marino, who runs an air duct cleaning company, recalled growing up in a tightknit Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood. He wants his boys, Gavin and Sebastian, to experience a similar sense of kinship. The Marinos long owned a vacation home in Mount Charleston. They knocked it down and spent four years building a 7,000-square-foot replacement after visiting the school.
Er... and he wants how much of a taxpayer subsidy for his millionaire's lifestyle? And, surprise, he's threatening to sue if he doesn't get to keep that taxpayer subsidy? Hard to feel much sympathy there. Let's try a different parent.
"The school far exceeds what you get unless you pay $1,000 a month for private school," said Rose Getler, its Parent Teacher Organization president.
Well, you know, at a cost of about $2,700 per month, per pupil (assuming ten months per year of tuition), you would hope you at least approach the value of a $1,000/month private school. Hey - if a $1,000/month private school is an available local option, how about having the kids go there, Clark County picks up the tab, and everybody walks away a winner?

Seriously, though, for all of its decades of experience operating the tiny school, it sounds like Clark County has no conception of how it might operate a one-room schoolhouse on a reasonable budget. They're spending over $110,000 per year on "instruction" - is that two full-time teachers, or a full-time teacher and a full-time principal, for nine kids? If it's the latter, does the principal have any classroom duties? They spend about $85,000 per year on "operations" - is that because the school also needs a full-time caretaker/groundskeeper? How much money could they save if they had a principal supervise the school remotely, leased the school's space from a local landlord that was responsible for maintaining the grounds, and contracted out cleaning to a local janitorial service? That approach may not be feasible given Clark County's operating procedures and contractual obligations, but... maybe it should be.

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