Las Vegas Sun

October 31, 2014

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Sun Editorial:

A Nevada ideal

A new conversation is needed to move the state forward

Nevada 3.0

In the coming months, the Sun’s opinion and editorial pages will host a discussion about the future of the state with a project we call Nevada 3.0.

Why 3.0? Looking at Nevada’s history, we saw the rise of the state with mining (1.0) and then the incredible growth with gaming and tourism (2.0). Now, there’s a chance for the state to plot its own future (3.0).

Much of the discussion recently has been about the economy and how the state can diversify it. That’s good, but it can’t end there.

Nevada is facing issues in a variety of areas, including education, social services, transportation, water, infrastructure and health care.

The state should be taking a broad view of the problems.

What will Nevada look like in 10, 20 or 40 years? Will this be a place our children and grandchildren will want to live?

We’re optimistic. One of the great things about Nevada is that it has been built by people who have been willing to take risks and dream big.

Nevada is a forward-looking state, and that encourages us as we look at the future.

We do want to make this a discussion and hope you’ll take part. We’ll look forward to hearing what you think.

Best,

Matt

Matt Hufman is the editor of the editorial and opinion pages.

News item: Nevada’s education system was ranked 50th in the nation in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual “Kids Count 2012” report. — July 28, 2012

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News item: Parenting magazine ranked Las Vegas as the worst city in the nation for education. The magazine previously ranked Las Vegas as one of the worst big cities in which to raise a child. — Summer 2012

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News item: For the 30th month in a row, Nevada has had the highest unemployment rate in the nation. — Sept. 21, 2012

There has been a drum roll of such news over the years, leaving us with the simple question:

Since when did this become acceptable?

In the middle part of the past decade, we heard political candidates talking about various national rankings and complaining about how Nevada was at the top of all the “bad” lists and at the bottom of all the “good” lists.

Since then, little has changed, except for the fact that we don’t hear many politicians complaining about it — Nevada’s rankings have become something of a given.

So when did it become acceptable to think that this is OK?

Nevada has many wonderful things going for it, but the problems are undeniable. The Great Recession has only exacerbated the issues.

During the boom times, the state was barely able to keep up with the growth, rapidly building schools, laying out plans for new developments and carving roads out of the desert.

The focus was on growth and not necessarily on the quality of life. The theory was that as long as the economy prospered, good things would happen — if not immediately, eventually. But that shouldn’t have been a foregone conclusion.

The stress on Nevada’s schools, services and social safety net were evident, but even in the boom times, the problems were pushed off for a future time that never came. Take, for example, education.

The “Kids Count” report was hardly the first indication that there is trouble in the education system. Nevadans have known for years about low student achievement scores, high dropout rates and overcrowded classrooms. But little progress was made.

Recently, the Clark County School District announced that the preliminary graduation rate showed a great improvement, up 6 percentage points. That was good news, but there is still a long way to go. The district’s graduate rate was 65 percent, which would earn it a D in the classroom.

That’s not to minimize an impressive achievement but to demonstrate the scope of the problems. The state isn’t going to turn around education or anything else overnight, nor are a few minor fixes going to solve the problems. It’s going to take a dedicated effort and a significant investment of time and money.

Unfortunately, the polarization in politics over the course of the past decade has stifled much of the debate. Ideology has trumped solutions.

In education, the fight has often come down to ideological lines. There are conservatives who argue that government has plenty of money and all that are needed are reforms. There are liberals who argue that the system has to be funded better. There has been little ground between the two.

Education policy can and should be improved, but any changes won’t go far until Nevada starts funding education properly. By any reasonable calculation, the per-pupil funding in Nevada that goes to the classroom is well below the national average.

But talk about funding, much less addressing an antiquated and unfair tax system, usually runs into a dead end in Carson City. Some conservatives have refused to even discuss funding in fear of violating some sort of anti-government, no-new-taxes orthodoxy that doesn’t withstand an objective analysis.

Good schools, paved roads, clean water and proper planning shouldn’t be driven by a political ideology, yet Nevada has stalled because of the political fight. That needs to change. The state needs a new ideology, one intent not on accomplishing political gains but on improving Nevada for the people and families who call this state home.

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  1. Nevada is a historical victim of exploitation. Until the People begin to address the mentality that leads to exploiting this state, its resources, and its People, any meaningful change will never happen. It all starts with the way we think and then do.

    We can talk politics and pass blame, but until there is a "reset" upon the minds, spirits, and souls of those that have an effect, directly or indirectly, the "Nevada Ideal" will continue to be ever elusive.

    Each and every one of us share in the responsibility on how it is for Nevada. Each of us must be responsible, and hold those who are making decisions and carrying out decisions accountable. There is no other way, and there are no "silver bullet" solutions for improving Nevada. Until there is an individual and collective concerted effort and "reset" of what we think and do, all that Nevada and its People will experience is "less than the best" and far from "ideal".

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  2. Why waste time with a long editorial complaining about our problems and the actions of others without making any suggestions on how to improve?

    Yeah, we need a new ideology. Great idea. That and a token gets me on the subway.

    We have a city based on selfishness in the forms of greed and hedonism. We take pride in being "Sin City." We sell ourselves by telling people they can come here and do things they'd be ashamed to tell about back home. And then we wonder why there's so little concern for others in the community. Combine this with the large percentage of transients and a history of corrupt and inept government and the chances of developing a sense of community, a sense of caring for others, seems about the same as that famous snowball.

  3. A looooong way to go. Nevada funds K-12 about average for this nation--which is over funding compared to EVERYWHERE else. Yet we get the worst, the absolute worst results. We overpay teachers who don't perform. Granted many teachers are doing the best they can and many follow official policies that are not productive but if "educators" can't figure out how to teach kids how to read and write simple English even up to the miserable "par" of other states, why do we bother. Shut down K-12 and pay for a convent of nuns to take over.

  4. To WizardofOz: Do you have any idea what would happen IF government compulsory statutes were NOT there? Can you imagine the difficulty parents might have in motivating their children into attending school? Sometimes, "Because it's the law..." is the only pressure left to guide a oppositional child (and there are millions of them in this country). Also, without compulsory education, an educated citizenry would NOT be available for our country's military, which is the REASON compulsory education was enacted in the first place. We would risk our national security.

    Although I agree with you in philosophy of values that a family has and embeds into their children, I also see the chaos our free society would face in having unmotivated children on the loose and at-large in the public and on the streets. Lawlessness is the picture I get. So, with eliminating compulsory education, you need to offer a replacement.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  5. Charter schools, home schooling, and school vouchers are the answers to better education. Unless and until Nevadans and our elected officials realize and demand these, the dismal Nevada record on education will never change.

    CarmineD

  6. It is debatable whether or not charter schools (at least, here in Nevada) and vouchers can provide an acceptable alternative to public education.

    Homeschooling, on the other hand, is a prescription for the continuation of the parents' prejudices and outright hatred in some cases.

    It is bad enough when a State replaces Jefferson with Calvin. It is far worse when many of those who support homeschooling replace legitimate science and philosophy with superstitions.

  7. Stop debated and fund something else. Public k-12 is broken and they've shown that excessive funding doesn't help.

  8. Stop debating boftx or we'll lose ANOTHER generation of students. Charter in the convent, dispense the vouchers, stop the tax-forever verbiage and let our economy whimper back to life.

  9. How is demanding more money for K-12 education a new conversation? Seriously?

  10. Sorry boftx, vouchers as one workable solution is not debatable. The debate on vouchers is pretty much closed - they work. There are 10 random assignment studies that conclude vouchers create statistically significant positive results for students.

    There is NO evidence that spending more money produces results.

  11. Patrick: Where HAVE you been?

  12. third to last paragraph: Funding that gets to the classroom--we OVERPAY teachers and there is nothing left for the students.