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Nevada Schools Closed on April 9th

April 9th was the last day of school in Nevada. Teachers, students, and staff will continue to keep the schools active until June 7th, but they are essentially working for free. This is based on a simple assumption. The assumption is that Nevada children should have the same level of funding as the average student in the United States. It doesn’t because education in Nevada is under siege and being starved of the funds it needs.

Schools in the United States spent an average of $11,762 on each student in the 2015-16 school year (the latest data available.) Nevada only spent $8,615 per pupil. [Sources:  Governing.com/U.S. Census Bureau Update 1 June 2018] Nevada funds their student’s education at 76% less than the average U.S. student. That is down from 83% in 2007.

Downward Spiral: Nevada per pupil funding as a % of the U.S. Average

At 76% of U.S. average per pupil funding, and based on a 180-day school year, Nevada’s per pupil funding runs out on April 9th, while the average U.S. student is funded to the end of the school year.

Nevada Education:  The No Money Myth

According to Education Week’s Quality Counts 2018, only Idaho ranks lower in School Finance and Nevada’ Overall education score is the worst in the United States. [Source:  Education Week 17 Jan 2018, updated 10 Oct 2018] But why doesn’t Nevada adequately fund public schools?

Nevada’s school funding, or lack thereof, is based on the assumption that Nevada is a poor State. Many believe that Nevada’s industries are overtaxed and cannot pay more in taxes than they are currently. They are not overtaxed. In fact, they’re hardly taxed at all.

Nevada is Not California, But It’s Not Nothin’

Nevada sits next to the 5th largest economy in the world, California. California casts a long shadow over almost all the other states in the United States, and it is true, Nevada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is less than six percent of the Golden State.

Nevada’s GDP increased by 3.8% in 2017. In 2018, Nevada’s GDP increased by 5.7% in Q1, 4.3% in Q2, and 4.1% in Q3. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Table 1)

However, Nevada’s GDP is not minor. In the United States, Nevada’s GDP is ranked 33rd (2017.) If Nevada were a country its GDP would rank 55th in the world. [Sources:  Wikipedia GDP World GDP USA] Nevada’s growth in GDP in 2017 was the second largest in the country.

What We Got Here…Is a Failure to Tax

Nevada’s problem is an almost religious belief that corporations should not pay taxes. Almost every tax in Nevada impacts the consumer, not the business. The gaming industry contributes almost nothing in taxes. They collect taxes from the winnings of the customer and collect lodging and entertainment taxes from the guest, but they pay no State corporate tax on their profits. They are essentially a tax collector for the State of Nevada, but not a taxpayer.

Nevada Mining’s Dirty Truths

Mining is one of Nevada’s major industries with a real GDP of $4.3 billion. [Source:  US ReapProject.org] Richard Perry of the Nevada Division of Minerals stated that in 2017, gold mining alone produced over $7 billion. [Source:  Nevada Business 1 Aug 2018] Since 2014, gold production has been increasing every year. [Source:  Nevada Mining Association] In 2017, Nevada accounted for 72% of all U.S. gold production. [Source:  Nevada Mining Association] Mining also offers one of the highest average wage of any industry in Nevada at just over $90,000.

It’s the other truths that make the ethics of the Nevada mining industry disturbing. Despite being a major industry, taxes paid by mining activities will only account for 1.1% of the State’s tax revenue during the 2017-19 budget. Cigarette taxes will account for almost four times the tax paid by mining. [Source:  Nevada Revenue Reference Manual 2017] 

Nevada’s Current State Revenue: Smoking is almost four times better for Nevada’s budget than mining

In 2018, Nevada ranked second in the world. For what? The mining industry ranked Nevada as having an almost a perfect score for having the most favorable policies in the world. Nevada is also ranked number one in Investment Attractiveness. [Source:  Fraser Institute 2018 Annual Mining Survey] Mining loves Nevada, in large part, because of a lax environment of taxation, labor, and regulation. Simply put, Nevada lets mining walk away with its natural resources with little benefit to its citizens.

One thing the Nevada mining industry does best is to control the message. They boast of having the highest average salary in the State. What they don’t emphasize is that mining only employees about 14,000 employees. [Source:  Wikipedia]

Mining’s high salaries are a result of, 1) employing few unskilled workers, and 2) competitive issues. They are trying to recruit highly skilled professionals to live and work in a rural, isolated environment. The high salaries are due to a workforce that is heavily mechanized and uses few unskilled labors. One report explains the employment situation in the Nevada mining industry:

Support positions represent the minority and are low-paying jobs, but this sector pays and average of about $90,000, if you’re lucky to get one of the mining or administrative positions.

Newsmax 14 Apr 2015 M.A. Smith 

 At War:  Disinformation About Public Schools

The motivation behind the war on Nevada children is greed. Also, a certain element in Nevada opposes the public education concept. This element, largely led by Nevada’s major industries, seem to believe that education is a black hole that consumes money but has no financial benefit to them.

The strategy has been to demonize public schools. For decades, a disinformation program has promoted the idea that public schools are corrupt, wasteful, and evil. Nevada’s business community, especially mining and gaming, have used their money and resources to back candidates that work to prevent adequate funding of public education. 

In addition, certain politicians have resurrected the belief that education should be centered on the concept of a deity. In 2015, Nevada Republicans passed a measure that would give parents taxpayer money to send their children to religious-operated schools. Republican Governor Brian Sandoval, whose children had attended a Catholic elementary school, signed the bill into Nevada law.

In 2016, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled the law to be unconstitutional but left the option open for Republicans to write a new bill that would allow taxpayer money to be given to parents for private religious schools. [Source:  AP 29 Sep 2016 – M. Rindels]

The Teacher Salary Deception

Those who are waging war against Nevada’s schools will point to the average teacher salary in Nevada. At $57,366, Nevada’s average teacher salary ranks as the 18th highest in the nation. [Source:  Business Insider 11 Feb 2019 – M. Perino] It is one of the few bright spots in the education story of the State…until you look closer.

With Nevada’s relatively high average teacher salary, one would expect the amount of money spent on instruction in Silver State’s schools to also be high, or at least above average. It is not.

Nevada’s per pupil spending on instruction is even worse than its overall per pupil spending. Nevada is only spending 73% per pupil than the U.S. average. So if the average Nevada teacher is paid more, why is instructional per pupil spending less?

The answer lies in Nevada’s teacher to student ratio. A single Nevada teacher instructs the same number of students as 1.6 teachers in the nation’s typical classroom. At almost 26 students per teacher, Nevada ranked first in the United States in student/teacher ratio for both 2016 and 2017. [Source:  NEA Research Table B3 Apr 2018]

Nevada pays teachers more than average because they have fewer teachers to pay. 

At War:  Infiltrate and Subvert

Stacking the Deck

Another tactic by anti-public school forces has been to infiltrate both local and state public school institutions and subvert efforts to increase public school funding to appropriate levels. The President of the Nevada State Board of Education is Elaine Wynn, co-founder and Director of Wynn Resorts, one of Nevada’s largest gaming corporations.

Seven of the eleven State Board of Education members do not have a degree in education, nor have they been employed as a public school teacher. The only active teacher on the Board is a part-time music teacher. [Source:  DOE.NV.GOV] The State Board of Education is designed to allow people with a vested interest in keeping a tight reign on funding for education.

At the school district level, the demoralizing environment of underfunded schools has caused the loss of great educators leaving the profession. This has also allowed in people who have a sadistic pleasure in experimenting on children. In the Washoe County School District (WCSD,) Nevada’s second largest, the vacuum of qualified teachers has attracted a few administrators and teachers that have seized the opportunity to push for cruelty in the schools.

Ms. Ratched is in the Classroom

The primary agenda of these dysfunctional administrators and teachers seems to the establishment a strict disciplinary state in the schools using the term, ‘rigor,’ as a code word for mental and social abuse of children. Rigor is interpreted by some teachers as an excuse to require hours of studying at home every night. When students fall behind, the teacher and the school blame the student for being mentally and/or emotionally flawed. Like Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a passive-aggressive teacher thrives in an environment where they’ve been approved to be tough on the students. 

Nurse Ratched also applied rigor and strict discipline to the people in her charge

Student absences are seen as opportunities by some teachers to burden the student with hours of makeup work. This work is added to the hours of homework that these same teachers send home every day. This work is due within 48 hours of receiving it. [Source:  WCSD Website] Some teachers have interpreted this policy as beginning 48 hours of being posted online, meaning students are expected to retrieve their makeup work at home while they are sick.

Some teachers have opted to use homework as an alternative to classroom instruction. In one case, a math syllabus for 7th-grade students warns students that homework will include introducing concepts not discussed in the classroom. The student is expected to research the concept at home and teach themselves how to complete the math problem. A math teacher reportedly told her students, “I’m not here to teach you, I’m here to grade you.”

I’m not here to teach you, I’m here to grade you.

Washoe County School District Teacher

During the past school year, the district also attempted to implement a program requiring students to complete improvised curriculum from home during ‘Snow Days.’ This program, known as ‘Digital Snow Days,’ had no educational justification. [See previous article] It was implemented under the banner of rigor and even though it was considered unlawful by the State Board of Education, certain district administrators vowed to pursue the program.

A typical child will often say they hate school, That’s expected, however, the fallout from an excessively cruel school environment is that students learn to hate learning.

Nevada Education:  Everyone Loses

In Nevada’s War on Children, everyone loses. Children that hate learning may do well on tests and graduate, but their motive is to do what is necessary to get away from school, not move forward with their education.

Employers that need bright, eager, well-educated employees to be competitive find Nevada high school graduates lacking. Companies like the aerospace company, Sierra Nevada Corporation, has its headquarters in Nevada where it escapes corporate and personal income taxes, but most of the company’s workforce is in Colorado. The jobs go to where the qualified people live.

Schools lose because they can’t keep great teachers who are faced with impossible work conditions. When schools recruit new teachers they are beggars offering salaries that don’t reflect the degree of education, training, licensure, personal scrutiny and professionalism required. Often they get the person willing to work for the salary, not the person they want in their school.

Parents lose because they have to confront the reality of underfunded schools, but their words fall on deaf ears when they seek remedies to the situation.

Nevada Education:  In a Tunnel Going Nowhere

There is no light on the horizon for Nevada’s schools. The current legislative session that will set the budget for the next two years will once again close without any effort to correct Nevada’s underfunding. Each year, Nevada’s per pupil funding will fall farther behind the funding for the average student in the United States. Money that belongs to Nevada’s children will end up in the bonus for a corporate executive…and the politicians will just shrug their shoulders and go home.

[NOTE:  Additional historical data was obtained from the Public Education Finances Report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015]