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April 21, 2014

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Chancellor calls Nevada schools a ‘disaster’

Nevada’s public education system is a “disaster” and is certain to deteriorate more under budget cuts proposed by Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons, Chancellor Jim Rogers said Thursday.

Rogers outlined a grim picture of the public school system and issued a scathing critique of Nevada’s commitment to education in remarks released in advance of a “state of the system” speech. Rogers, who as chancellor oversees the state’s universities and community college system, will air his speech Friday on television stations he owns in Reno, Las Vegas and Elko.

“Every one of the proposed cuts will ultimately destroy your children’s chance to be well-educated,” he said.

His blunt and biting remarks directly answered Gibbons’ recent State of the State speech, in which the governor defended a budget proposal that cuts funding for higher education by 36 percent and slashes pay for all the state’s teachers by 6 percent.

Nevada is facing a massive budget shortage because the tourism industry’s slowdown and a housing crisis have battered the state’s primary sources of tax revenue. Gibbons plans to raise taxes on hotel rooms, but has said he will not consider other tax increases.

Rogers, who endorsed Gibbons’ bid for office once he was assured of the governor’s commitment to schools, has become a regular critic of the governor, his budget priorities and his no-tax pledge.

“We cannot cut our way out of this problem,” Rogers said. “New funding can be found that will not drag down the economy.”

But Gibbons wasn’t the only one Rogers blamed.

The millionaire businessman took Nevadans to task for not valuing education. Whereas Nevadans once hoped to see their kids go to college, he said parents today are satisfied if their children graduate from eighth grade.

Only one in 10 Nevada ninth-graders will graduate from college, Rogers said.

“The state of K-16 education in Nevada is where the public, that is you there, has allowed it to sink. Your only relationship with the education system is to ship your unprepared kids to school, not with the expectation of success, but with the demand that an education system — inadequately funded — develop and/or repair children that you as a parent did not prepare,” he said. “It is the public — that means you — that has created this disaster of a public education system.”

Rogers said Gibbons’ cuts left the state’s higher education system with several “unworkable” options. It could close the College of Southern Nevada and Great Basin College. It could close the University of Nevada, Reno and the community colleges in northern Nevada. Or it could close the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Nevada State College.

Rogers opposed the options as well as any large fee increases at Nevada colleges.

“The college door must be kept open for young people who cannot afford even today’s level of tuition and fees,” he said. “But with large increases in tuition and fees and no increase in scholarships, Nevada may be guaranteeing itself a loss of an entire educated generation.”

Rogers’ speech is scheduled to air 7 p.m. Friday on KVBC in Las Vegas, KRNV in Reno and KENV in Elko. In Las Vegas, the program also will include remarks from Clark County School District Superintendent Walt Rulffes. Paul Dugan, superintendent for Washoe County School District, will speak in Reno.

Rulffes and Dugan have not released their remarks.

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