††† Audit Division
Materials Available To Students
Results in Brief
††††††††† Financial support for Nevadaís public schools is a shared responsibility, with local and state revenues covering most of the costs.† The State guarantees a basic level of financial support to each school district through a funding process called the Nevada Plan.† Although the funding amount is determined by the State, it is each districtís responsibility to decide how the funds are spent.† In fiscal year 1999, each school district spent more for instructional costs than the estimates used in determining the stateís basic support guarantee.† However, this was not always the case in prior years.† Furthermore, weaknesses in the process of compiling the detailed financial information provided by school districts to the Department of Education allowed some reporting errors to occur.
††††††††† For the schools we examined, most classes had a sufficient number of textbooks for use by students, including students in special education programs.† However, we did identify textbook shortages affecting about 5% of the students.† Availability of textbooks is also influenced by classroom teaching methods.† For instance, some students are not issued a textbook because the basis of instruction involves other types of course materials, such as software or teacher-created materials.† In other cases, classroom booksets are used, in which textbooks are available to students only while in class, and are generally not to be taken home.† Even though availability of textbooks is a concern among educators and parents, few districts have adopted formal policies regarding this issue.† Furthermore, the process for adopting textbooks needs improvement to ensure only approved materials are used in Nevadaís classrooms.
††††††††† Requesting money or classroom supplies from parents is a common practice throughout the State, yet most districts did not have policies regarding these requests.† The policies on these requests are often left up to school administrators, and frequently the schoolís teachers make the decisions.† District officials emphasized these are requests only, and schools provide supplies to students when necessary.
∑ In fiscal year 1999, each school district spent at least the estimated amounts established in the Nevada Plan for instructional costs.† State funding totaled $100.53 per pupil for the instructional costs categories of textbooks, instructional supplies, library books, and instructional software.† The statewide average of district expenditures for these categories was $130.65 per pupil.† However, in prior years there were instances when districts spent less than funded on instructional costs.† For example, in fiscal year 1995 districts statewide spent a total of $2.3 million less than funded for textbooks.† In fiscal year 1996, districts spent nearly $1.6 million less than funded for instructional supplies.†
∑ Decisions regarding funding for school districts are based on detailed financial information reported to the Department of Education.† However, weaknesses in the process of compiling and reporting this information allowed some errors to occur.† For example, Douglas County School District costs for instructional supplies were understated by $475,000 in fiscal year 1999 because of a Department error.† Additionally, textbook expenditures of $187,000 went unreported because Nye County School District accounted for a large portion of its instructional costs in a separate fund.† Furthermore, because districts rely on outdated accounting guidance provided by the Department, instructional costs are not always charged to appropriate categories.
∑ Practices for making course materials available to students vary widely.† For instance, 54% of the elementary classes in our sample did not use a textbook as the primary basis of instruction.† Furthermore, at the secondary level, 35% of the classes in which textbooks were used had classroom booksets.† Under this arrangement, each classroom has a set of books for use by students during the class period.† But, because these books are often shared by students in four or five classes, they are generally not available to be taken home.
∑ Our analysis disclosed textbook shortages in 267 of the 3,246 (8%) classes in which textbooks were used.† Shortages affected 1,489 of the 28,687 (5%) students in our sample.† Although classes experiencing textbook shortages tended to have more students, this was not always the case. For instance, the average size of secondary classes with bookset shortages was 30 students, while classes with shortages of full-time books averaged only 24 students.† In classes where textbook shortages occurred, the average shortage was 6 books.† Furthermore, although availability of textbooks is a concern among educators and parents, most school districts had not developed a policy on this issue.
∑ The textbook adoption process needs improvement to ensure Nevadaís students are using currently approved books and materials.† Additional monitoring of the process is necessary because districts do not always purchase textbooks that have been approved by the State Board of Education.† For example, Elko County School District purchased over 2,200 copies of 3 unapproved social studies textbooks.† Lyon County School District purchased nearly 100 copies of 2 unapproved mathematics textbooks.† Furthermore, there is no process in place to ensure materials other than books, when used as the basis of instruction, are properly approved.† Materials other than books were used in 42% of the classes we reviewed, and include items such as computer software, instructional kits, and teacher-created materials.
∑ Teachers throughout the State frequently make requests of parents for money or classroom supplies to supplement materials available at schools.† About 33% of teachers indicated they had requested parents to provide money, at an average amount of $9.47.† A greater percentage of teachers (79%), reported asking parents to provide classroom supplies, at an estimated cost to the parents of $17.99.† Although requesting money and supplies is a widespread practice, only two of Nevadaís school districts have adopted policies regarding this issue.
Materials Available To Students
to Audit Recommendations
Number †††† Accepted††††† Rejected
††††††††††† 1†††††††††††††† Strengthen the process for collecting, compiling, and reviewing Annual
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Report financial information to ensure all relevant data is obtained and
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† accurately reported.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† _______†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ___X___
††††††††††† 2†††††††††††††† Update the guidance provided to school districts in the Nevada
††††††††††††† †††††††††††††† Financial Accounting Handbook for Local Educational Agencies,
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† August 1979.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† _______†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ___X___
††††††††††† 3†††††††††††††† Develop and perform monitoring procedures to verify districts are using
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† approved textbooks.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† _______†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ___X___
††††††††††† 4†††††††††††††† Work with school districts to identify materials other than textbooks used
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† in classrooms as a basis of instruction, and determine which materials
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† should go through the textbook adoption process.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† _______†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ___X___
††††††††††† 5†††††††††††††† Ensure that information presented on the Textbook Adoption List is
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† accurate and complete.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† _______†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ___X___
††††††††††† 6†††††††††††††† Assist districts in adopting policies regarding the availability of
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† textbooks, and requesting money or supplies from parents.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† _______†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ___X___
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† TOTALS†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ___0____†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ___6___
††††††††††† The Department of Education, in its response, does not agree with certain of our findings, conclusions, and recommendations.† The following identifies those sections of the report where the Department has taken exception to our position.† We have provided our comments on the issues raised in the Departmentís response to assure the reader that we believe our findings, conclusions, and recommendations as stated in the report are appropriate.
††††††††††† Legislative Auditorís Comments
††††††††††† As discussed on page 11, as part of our audit we assessed the adequacy of controls at the Department of Education related to issues in the audit.† Although not specifically required as part of A.B. 241, we included recommendations to the Department of Education to strengthen processes or controls to address conditions noted in our assessment.† In addition, as described on page 39, at the conclusion of our audit procedures we sent letters to each superintendent describing the results of our audit applicable to their district.† We requested they review the items in the letter to help ensure the accuracy of the data and a complete understanding of the information presented.† We encouraged the superintendents to provide their comments or concerns regarding the information.† In some cases, meetings or telephone conversations were held to discuss and clarify items in the letters.
††††††††††† Legislative Auditorís Comments
††††††††††† In several areas of the report we discussed the responsibilities for administering the system of public education in Nevada.† On page 6 we note the statutes provide that public instruction in the State is essentially a matter for local control by school districts, except for powers limited by other specific provisions of law.† Specific powers granted to the State Board of Education include responsibility for developing policies relating to supervision, management, and controls of public schools (NRS 385.075).† Statutes also give the State Board authority to adopt regulations, as necessary, for the execution of the powers and duties conferred upon it by law (NRS 385.080).† The State Board, and the Department of Education as its administrative entity, have statutory responsibilities to approve textbooks (NRS 390.140), and compile financial information (NRS 387.303).† These responsibilities, as discussed in our report, are within the Departmentís jurisdiction and do not infringe on local school district control.
††††††††††† As discussed on page 6, local boards of trustees are responsible for adopting district budgets that provide for instruction of students and operational activities of the district.† On page 12, we note that although the stateís budgetary process is used to determine the minimum funding districts will receive, local school districts control the actual expenditures.† Therefore, budgets are adopted to address local priorities, which may not correspond with specific funding amounts related to instructional costs in the stateís basic support guarantee.
††††††††††† Legislative Auditorís Comments
††††††††††† Five of the six recommendations relate to statutory requirements of the Department of Education that are neither new nor entirely local responsibilities.† The sixth recommendation is intended to promote communication between the Department and school districts to assist in improving policies.
††††††††††† Our first two recommendations are designed to improve the accuracy of financial information used in the budgetary process for the Distributive School Account, as discussed on page 17.† The compilation of this information is an established statutory requirement of the Department.† Recommendations three to five relate to the statutory requirements for the approval of textbooks.† Statutes requiring state approval of textbooks have been in place for many years, and do not represent new responsibilities.† As discussed on page 29, some monitoring must be performed to help ensure compliance with these statutory requirements.† Monitoring is a standard concept of management control, which in this case involves a statewide issue and should not represent new responsibilities for the Department.† The intent of the sixth recommendation, as discussed on page 27, is for the Department to provide assistance to ensure issues related to the use and availability of instruction materials, and requests of parents, are adequately addressed.