Las Vegas Sun

February 28, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

The debate on the state’s economy has skirted the issues for too long

For decades, Nevada’s economy had a reputation for being bulletproof. It quickly rebounded from any economic downturn and continued to grow. A decade ago, Nevada was dealing with the slump after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but would quickly rebound and take off on a torrid pace of growth.

Then the unforgiving Great Recession hit, and Nevada was proved to be mortal.

Tourism, housing and construction were hammered, and the state has had the highest unemployment rate in the country for 16 months. Nevada has also suffered from high rates of foreclosures.

While there have been some positives signs showing a gradual improvement in the economy, no one with any sense is suggesting that the state will spring back to where it once was. The housing market has been flooded with foreclosures, leaving a glut of homes and no rush to build. The tourism industry has seen an upturn, but it is a shadow of the growth it once saw.

As we have noted before, Nevada has long been on a boom-and-bust cycle economically, and that dates back to the founding of the state. Good times came when the price of minerals and metals being mined in Nevada went up, and the economy faltered when the markets slipped or the mines went bust. Although more stable than mining, the casino industry has been vulnerable to economic fluctuations as well.

Given how the recession has decimated the state, it’s time for Nevada to fundamentally reconsider its economy and how the state moves forward.

This shouldn’t be news to state leaders. They have long talked about the need to recruit new businesses and industries to the state to diversify and help stabilize the economy. Unfortunately, there has been little progress made.

Now, the state’s economic troubles have spurred some action in Carson City. The Legislature and Gov. Brian Sandoval took initial steps this year by approving an overhaul of the state’s economic development efforts. Last week, the Brookings Institution and SRI International provided a foundation for the work with a major report outlining issues and opportunities facing the state. The report takes a serious, sober look at Nevada, and state leaders should consider it to be a guide for the way forward.

The report outlines any number of problems facing Nevada, many of which are old news. For example, the education system has struggled and there hasn’t been the investment in higher education, which could help spur the economy forward. In the past, state leaders have been content to make minor changes and push off tough decisions, pledging to take them up when better times came. But when the good times came, they were never good enough for the politicians to act, and as a result the schools and other essential services have languished.

The can’t be acceptable anymore. What state leaders have tried in the past hasn’t worked to prepare Nevada for the 21st century. They need to take bold action and invest in the state, build the education system and strengthen any other number of important services to help provide a future for the next generation of Nevadans.


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  1. Whoever told you Nevada's economy was bulletproof wasn't paying attention to history.

    You can look back on the historical economic data and see a clear trend of ups and downs in employment and GDP growth like every other state. We trend to fall last and recover last due to the fact that our economy is tourist based

  2. The idea that we don't spend enough on higher education is also nonsense:

    NSHE's spending on education and research PER PUPIL ranks 19th highest in the nation at just over $17,000 per pupil.

  3. Both Dennis Williams and Frank Simmons have very valid points.

    Dennis nailed the prime areas:
    "Your state constitution was written in the 19th century and it severely needs to be amended if Nevada insists on entering the 21st century.Your school system, water supply and part time state government are three main reasons why business and seniors wont invest in Nevada." (capitalization added)

    What the People of Nevada have experienced and witnessed for over a century, is the methodic "Kick the can down the road politically." ALL the Leaders and LAWMAKERS have been virtually owned by the mining and gaming industries for over half a century.

    Keeping the Legislature part time only makes the problem worse, as action, if any, takes at least six years to make any change in the Nevada Constitution, which includes education and water laws. This must change if Nevada is to move forward into the 21st Century.

    In the past ten years, education in Nevada has made great strides towards improvements in technology development, and reorganizing and streamlining the bureaucracy, and prioritizing needs in education and affectively addressing them. People need to understand that No Child Left Behind is an UNfunded mandate by the Federal Government, and that it is set up (by virtue of raising the bar yearly) to eventually see high achieving schools fail. You cannot improve yearly on 100%! The very author of NCLB later publically recanted this program as having inherent flaws. Clark County School District has since moved towards the Growth Model, which is a more intelligent and reasonable approach in measuring student progress.

    Innovations as a state lottery and decriminalizing, growing, taxing, regulating, and allowing marijuana sales may eventually come with a CHANGE in leadership that will move to CHANGE the Nevada Constitution in a responsible way. We need fiscal solutions as TAX REVENUES, yet we see mining paying a pittance for exploiting Nevada's natural resources. Gaming has move off-shore and to other countries to avoid tax liabilities here.

    Leadership needs to change and begin to address the will of the People. They must not be owning to lobbyists of mining, gaming, and other industries or public utilities. That is where Nevada needs to start to improve its economy.

    Blessings and Peace,

  4. Dipstick,

    Exposing kids to an increased risk of being taught by ineffective teachers is actually far worse than packing kids into classes with highly effective teachers.

    Do I have to post the research on this all over again?

  5. "Do I have to post the research on this all over again?"

    No, Patrick, no one wants to see your BS "data" anymore...

  6. By "[my] BS data" you are of course referring to research done by university research professors at Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Northwestern, Arkansas.....

    Don't hate, but the fact is class size reduction was ruled ineffective by scientists a decade BEFORE unions picked up the cause to boost their own membership and thus their own income and power. It has NOTHING to do with helping children.

  7. Bradley, old chap...

    What IS that?
    Pig Latin???

  8. Patrick,
    Large class sizes create teacher inefficiency. Large class sizes create more paper airplanes and spit wad generators then they do lessons learned. They make the teacher an authoritarian and drill instructor rather then an academician. Didn't you ever attend K-12 education?

    Stop getting your facts from research which is cookie cut to serve your ideology while ignoring the facts of the industry and human nature. Concentrate more on reality and those who know how to teach rather then just lecture.

  9. Jon,

    That is a nice theory but its just not the case. Not only does the U.S. have some of the lowest scores among developed nations it also has the lowest class sizes.

    Most research shows that TEACHER QUALITY is far more important than the class size. A study out of Tennesee found the impact of a good teacher to be 10-20x more important than just a small class.

    David Figlio at Northwestern found a recent Florida class size reduction program to have no impact (some districts were allowed to opt out and spend the money in otherways instead of on hiring new teachers).

    I'm not cutting out anything. The fact is about 85 percent of the some 200 + studies on class size redution show no impact or a negative impact on student achievement.

  10. A few off-the-cuff observations on the topic:

    It is obvious to me that Nevada has always been America's whore. Without an identity of its own, it has hiked its skirt to any suitor that comes along, be it mining, gaming, construction, Hughs, Zappos, and so forth. And the pimp government acquiesced and let them have their way with her. Likewise, perhaps Nevada's infatuation with the barbaric practice of legalized prostitution has infected the brains of its leadership. And perhaps now is the time to realize that legalized prostitution is not a progressive and desirable element for our state. Perhaps it may be a hindrance to the influx of new business and industry.

    The state of Nevada is in the control of gaming, mining, and real estate-development interests. The capital that is created by these industries is completely out of proportion compared to the taxes they pay. This cannot change, however, since (as previously stated) the state of Nevada is in the control of gaming, mining, and real estate-development interests. Catch 22!

    Since the state of Nevada is in the control of gaming, mining, and real estate-development interests, there is no need for education. Who needs to go to school to learn how to deal cards, dig for gold, or hammer nails?

    Therefore, there is no interest for the controlling powers - and that includes the lawmakers under their sway - to change the status quo. Reports such as that produced by the Brookings Institution will not affect anything unless the entrenched power structures are challenged.

  11. Patrick:
    There is a tremendous difference between K-12 and University/Community College Statistics on performance vs. class size. Your research seems to combine the two.

    I personally prefer self study to any engineering class in Nevada. The syllabus only guides the subjects but the learner guides himself. When I was in K-12, that was not true. Our class sizes in California High School were under 30.

    Once the class got larger then that, the rear of the room collected those that passed notes, carried razor blades in their hair and other paraphernalia. They didn't listen at all because the back of the room was not conducive to learning the subject matter.

    When sitting close to them, I often got caught up in the baloney, although at times it was very interesting baloney.

    Large classes, over 30, in K-12 are not conducive to listening and good teachers must become disciplinarians first, or loose the entire room. I personally could never discipline a room full of 6th graders, let alone 12th. The vocabulary used under those conditions is too small to keep me out of trouble.