WARNING! Making Nevadans pay the nation’s highest average sales tax won’t fix our schools

This article was written by Michael Schaus of Nevada Policy Research Institute and published on March 3, 2020.

https://www.npri.org/commentary/another-billion-dollar-tax-hike-education/

Nevadans deserve an education system that actually works for students, not merely one that takes more hard-earned money from working families.

The Silver State already spends roughly $10,200 per student — an amount comparable to numerous states (and nations) that outperform us academically on a regular basis. And yet, the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) is convinced that a simple billion-dollar tax hike will, somehow, fix all our education woes.

Earlier this year, the CCEA announced plans to lobby for a couple of tax hikes that would generate a whopping $1.4 billion in new revenue for public education. More than $300 million would be generated by a higher gaming tax, with the bulk of the revenue (roughly $1.1 billion) coming from an increase to the state’s sales tax.

If successful, the CCEA’s tax hike would give Nevada the dubious distinction of being home to the nation’s highest average sales tax — higher even than liberal enclaves such as California, New York and Massachusetts.

Which is an important point, given that Nevadans already earn less than residents in those other states, with private sector median earnings ranking 47th out of 50 states after cost of living adjustments — hardly the economic demographic equipped to deal with a billion-dollar sales-tax increase.

Of course, The CCEA tells us such a tradeoff must be made if we expect to “fully fund” public education — an argument that is either rooted in deep ignorance of current education funding levels, or outright dishonesty. After all, it’s not as if Nevada is spending pennies on education when the rest of the nation is spending dollars. Our per-pupil spending levels are perfectly in line with states that have consistently higher levels of academic performance, such as Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Florida.

More importantly, we’ve been down this road before. Since the 1960s, per-pupil funding in Nevada has tripled. Just five years ago, Republican Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law the state’s largest-ever tax hike for the ostensible purpose of “fixing education.” And yet, academic performance continues to disappoint.

Maybe, before asking Nevada families to pony up an extra billion dollars in sales taxes, we should figure out why previous spending increases didn’t deliver any substantive gains.

The truth is, what we’re lacking in public education isn’t “more money.” It’s accountability. Clark County School District, for example, is home to more than 100 schools that have consistently received failing grades from the state. Nearly three-quarters of eighth grade students aren’t proficient in reading, and at least one Clark County school was reported to have a whopping 99 percent of students ranked as “below grade level” in math.

And yet, the district’s official evaluations claim there isn’t a single ineffective principal or administrator in any of the district’s nearly 400 schools. The official teacher evaluations made a similar claim, describing a mere 0.1 percent of the district’s 20,000 teachers as “ineffective.”

It doesn’t take a statistician to realize those evaluations don’t exactly mesh with reality. However, it’s unsurprising. The system is so insulated from accountability, even a school where virtually every student is behind in math somehow receives “effective” ratings for all of its staff.

Clearly, the education establishment isn’t interested in holding itself accountable. And, unfortunately, parents in Nevada have little recourse, given the state’s distinct lack of educational alternatives to district schools.

Florida, on the other hand, is an excellent case-study in how parental choice increases accountability, with dramatic results for academic outcomes. Despite spending less per pupil than 48 other states, Florida’s academic performance was ranked fourth in the nation in 2018. The reason for such impressive performance was simple: Florida has some of the most expansive educational choice programs in the nation — giving many parents the ability to hold their district schools accountable simply by leaving.

In other words, Florida managed to spend less and outperform almost every other state in the nation by passing reforms that ensure students have access to classrooms that suit their needs — rather than simply pouring more money into classrooms that don’t.

Nevada’s education establishment clearly has no interest in such reforms. Instead, it has consistently fought against policies that would empower parents with greater educational choice or increase accountability, while simultaneously fighting for an ever-larger share of tax dollars.

Making Nevadans poorer by thrusting a billion-dollar tax hike on them isn’t going to change what’s wrong with public education in this state.

It’s simply going to make it more expensive.

RGJ tracker: Here’s who’s running for federal, state and local offices in Northern Nevada

Nevada’s 10-day candidate filing

James DeHaven and Anjeanette Damon, Reno Gazette Journal Published 1:47 p.m. PT March 2, 2020 | Updated 6:07 p.m. PT March 2, 2020

Hundreds of candidates are expected to file for dozens of federal, state and local elected offices across Nevada over the next 10 days.

More than 50 seats are set to appear on Washoe County ballots, ranging from a high-stakes race to the White House to a spot on the Verdi Television District Board of Directors.

Local council, commission, school board and judicial races count for most of the seats up for grabs. Washoe voters will also help decide one congressional race and 11 spots in the state Legislature.

Candidates have until 5 p.m. on March 13 to file official paperwork needed to run in those contests.

We’ll be tracking those filings as they come in. Check back here for updates:

Reno-area Nevada Senate seat set to be competitive race

Former Washoe County Assessor candidate Wendy Jauregui-Jackins will challenge Reno Republican Heidi Seevers-Gansert for one of the most competitive seats in the Nevada Legislature.

Jauregui-Jackins, an appraiser at the county assessor’s office, announced her candidacy for state Senate District 15 in a Monday statement issued by Senate Democrats.

“As the proud daughter of immigrant parents, I was so fortunate in my upbringing,” she said. “My mom and dad worked hard for our family and gave me the opportunity to get a good education and go on to establish a successful career.

“I am stepping forward to run for state Senate because I want to fight to make sure everyone in our community has those same opportunities, regardless of their zip code.”

Jauregui-Jackins is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno. She moved to Reno in 2006 after meeting her future husband Adam, a police officer at the Reno Police Department.

Jauregui-Jackins was immediately endorsed by state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas — a sign that legislative Democrats think they can flip the Southwest Reno swing district Seevers-Gansert first won in 2016.

“Wendy Jauregui-Jackins is a dedicated public servant committed to improving the lives of everyone in her community,” Cannizzaro said in a statement. “As a first generation American, Wendy knows first-hand the opportunities that come with receiving a quality public education.

“She is the only candidate in this race who is committed to fighting for public schools and affordable health care, and we are proud to endorse her.”

Seevers-Gansert is seen as a rising star in many GOP circles, though she’s faced criticism from hardline conservative pundits and some pushback over her support for a controversial school choice program that ultimately failed during the 2019 Legislature.

Democrats now hold a narrow advantage of just 500 voters in her district, making Seevers-Gansert one of the party’s top targets heading into this year’s general election.

Seevers-Gansert told the Reno Gazette Journal she hadn’t met Jaregui-Jackins but was looking forward to the challenge.

“I’ve been honored, in representing this district, to help make our schools safer and contribute to our economy,” she said. “I have a strong record of supporting our schools.

“This is a close district. I was honored to be elected last time and I’m excited to do it again.” )

Familiar names file on Monday

The rest of Monday’s legislative filings in Northern Nevada came from familiar faces.

Republican Assemblymen Al Kramer, Jim Wheeler and John Ellison each filed for re-election, as did state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka.

Natha Anderson, a teacher and the daughter of longtime Sparks Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, filed for the seat vacated by Assemblyman Greg Smith, D-Sparks. Smith in November announced he would not seek re-election.

Skip Daly, D-Sparks, also filed for re-election in Assembly District 31.

U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., filed to keep his seat in the Silver State’s sprawling 4th Congressional District, which stretches from North Las Vegas all the way to Yerington. Republican newcomer Sam Peters was the first of Horsford’s opponents to make his candidacy official.

Businessman Rick Shepherd formalized his third attempt to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei in the state’s 2nd Congressional District, joining fellow Democrat and two-time congressional challenger Clint Koble in the race to oust the longtime GOP lawmaker. Ian Luetkehans, another frequent contender for Amodei’s seat, will run as a Democrat in his latest bid for the job.

Filing slow for city of Reno offices

A rush of candidates for the Reno City Council’s four open seats never materialized Monday.

Local real estate agent J.D. Drakulich filed to run for Ward 1, the seat currently held by Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus.

Councilwoman Neoma Jardon filed to run for re-election in Ward 5.

Reno businessman Eddie Lorton filed to run for the council’s at-large seat, currently held by Councilman Devon Reese.

No candidates had filed for Ward 3, currently held by Councilman Oscar Delgado.

Candidates have until March 13 to file.

James DeHaven is the politics reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. He covers campaigns, the Nevada Legislature and everything in between

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