Education professor receives national recognition for work

5/4/2011 - By: Claudene Wharton

A University of Nevada, Reno College of Education professor will join just nine other individuals in the country later this week to receive recognition for her work and research in K-12 education finance.

Deborah Verstegen, Nevada professor of education finance, policy and leadership, will accept the National Education Finance Conference Distinguished Fellow Award at the conference in Tampa, Fla.

Verstegen's book, Financing Education in a Climate of Change (with Brimley and Garfield), was published in February by Pearson, Inc. and included the results of a comprehensive 50-state survey of how education is financed in this country, along with analysis. She will present results at the conference.

Verstegen is a recognized expert in equal education opportunity, as well as state and federal education finance policy, and has published extensively on these issues. She developed an education equity statistic, later used and named by scholars, the "Verstegen Index." She has consulted for local, state and federal governmental agencies throughout the country, and has repeatedly served as an expert witness in state school finance litigation. She is also the policy editor of the Journal of Education Finance.

Verstegen said that Nevada's current "foundation plan" of funding K-12 education based on a basic per pupil amount was established in 1967 and sorely needs updating. She said many states have added provisions to better provide for low-income/at-risk students, English language learners, and gifted and talented students, for example, but Nevada has not. And, she pointed out that Nevada is 49th in funding per pupil and last in graduation rate.

"Empirical research shows that low funding is generally related to low outcomes, although there are always anomalies," she said. "Empirical research indicates that quality teachers, preschool education and smaller class sizes in grades K through 3 are major factors in positive student outcomes. Because these cost money, money matters in student success."

Nevada College of Education Dean Chris Cheney said that the state's decision makers should make good use of Verstegen's research.

"Dr. Verstegen's work is particularly timely and appropriate for Nevada policy makers to consider during these troubled economic times," Cheney said. "Her expertise provides the 'long view' that we need when considering how the laws we enact now can affect the state's educational system and outcomes in the future."

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