Commentary: As public education goes, so goes the state
Gov. Gibbons and the Legislature are in a difficult situation. Our traditional economic mainstays – gaming and tourism – are in the doldrums and not likely to come back to past levels. We have historically protected industries like mining from paying their fair share of taxes; profits flow out of the state.
The economic crisis is exacerbated by anti-tax and anti-government attitudes held by many in the state. Those who propose a new tax structure or new revenue sources are immediately attacked. The mantra for the
anti-government crowd is “cut, cut, cut” in hopes that they can render all government ineffective and its services marginal or nonexistent.
The underlying factor of a state’s ability to recover from an economic crisis is its ability to create and maintain a high quality educational system. “No new taxes” rhetoric forces the governor to solve problems with draconian measures, such as cutting the university, schools and other vital services.
Chancellor Dan Klaich suggested the governor think about more prudent alternatives than deeper cuts in education. Sen. Bill Raggio, at the Jan. 13 meeting of the Legislative committee on education, thought there was need for the governor and the Legislature to work together (both had been remiss during the last session) and that a special session for the governor’s education reform package would not allow sufficient time for a thorough deliberation of the issues. Sen. Raggio also mentioned that there was a
$160 million line of credit available for fiscal emergencies, and there were accounting measures to allow funds from the next fiscal year to be used in a current fiscal year.
More K-12 reductions will mean layoffs that will further hurt our economy. Gov. Gibbons has proposed a direct frontal attack: Eliminate collective bargaining for teachers, cut class size reduction, cut all-day kindergarten, and throw a bone to the local boards by suggesting increasing their control. It’s an old ploy, but doesn’t work.
Sen. Raggio had the right idea. The governor and the legislative leadership and committees should work together to explore school governance changes, if necessary, and examine needed Distributive School Account modifications, if necessary.
Most importantly, they should look at expanding charter schools in an effort to ignite this movement in Nevada. Good charter schools, if well run, are cost effective, offer curriculum diversity, represent the best of local control and hold great promise for all of our students.
• Dr. Eugene T. Paslov, former Nevada superintendent of schools, is a board member for the Davidson Academy for gifted and talented, UNR.