I couldn’t help laughing during Gov. Brian Sandoval’s State of the State address tonight. They say hindsight is 20/20, but it damn near felt like Gov. Sunny had bought rose-colored glasses when he talked about the last session of the Legislature. All that talk about bipartisan work to get Nevada back on its feet, it made me wonder if I had over-dosed on the Nyquil in my flu-state.
In tonight’s speech, Sandoval The Stiff laid out his plans to help his “Nevada family” (does that make him the uncle I never invite to Thanksgiving?) continue to grow — yes grow, he says. He trumpeted the 30,000 new jobs (to which Democratic Majority Leader Mo Dennis came back with the more than 40,000 new jobs in Utah and more than 50,000 new jobs in Colorado, ouch) as a sign of economic recovery in demonstrably the hardest hit state in the nation. He promised a return of merit pay and a cut in furloughs for state workers. And he promised to cut taxes for 2,700 small businesses. And what was that about Medicaid patients kicking in to pay for their own healthcare? (Blink and you missed it.)
Oh, and lest you think he forgot about those of us with lady-parts… he did mention that Nevada’s 150th anniversary of statehood coincides with the 100th anniversary of our state granting suffrage to women (five years before the feds). So, there you go ladies!
But the centerpiece of the governor’s presentation — which included photos of second grade students smiling behind him (nice touch) — was talking about an increase in spending on education including $20 million to fund full-day Kindergarten in at-risk schools, increasing Teach for America and the Jobs for America’s Graduates programs.
It’s funny to me to hear the governor talk about improving education, considering that in the last session he proposed some of the deepest and more devastating cuts to our lower and higher education systems, perhaps in state history. It is hardly a surprise that after the last session, Nevada was recognized as being the worst in the nation on education and continues to have one of the highest drop-out rates, lowest rates of residents with college degrees, and below-average proficiency rates in math and reading (PDF).
Clearly, in Nevada we could hardly fall farther down the garbage chute. I daresay, we’ve hit bottom.
There are some that say that it will be hard to ask for more from Sandoval when he’s kind-of, sorta cribbed one of the Democrats biggest talking points on education: all-day Kindergarten. But where the governor is calling for a roll-out into at-risk schools, Democrats are asking for the program to go statewide. Furthermore, let’s not just gloss over the governor’s plans to fund a “data system” to track teacher evaluations and voucher programs so (some) students can “have a choice” in opting out of a failing public school.
For all their talk about reducing government waste and inefficiency, nothing screams inefficient more than paying for a failing school and simultaneously instituting a lottery system so only a chosen few can escape it for private schools. I’m no economist or fancy politician, but it sure seems like paying twice as much to educate someone when you are paying for a failing school and paying for a voucher system. Seems to me, it would be cheaper and more efficient (not to mention, far less of a lesson in social Darwanism) if we just brought the failing school up to successful standards.
But I digress…
Let’s go back and actually look at what it was like last time around. Because as much as Sunny likes to paint a picture like those were the scary, bad ol’ days, we’re still not all that far from the edge:
- We lost big in 2011: From a failure to launch on mining taxes to 7.5 percent pay cuts for lower education, we progressives got our asses handed to us more than once last session. How about this time around, we grow a pair — of balls, ovaries, breasts, hair… whatever it takes — and get some relief for Nevada’s poor by finally getting something done about letting mining off the hook, comprehensive sex education, returning funding for safety net programs, and…
- Dear God! let’s get some help for our education system! Many of Sandoval’s proposed “increases” to funding for education in the new budget are actually funds rolled over from other funds which brings his touted $135 million increase to more like $47 million (I’m quoting Jon Ralston’s math on this one). I still argue that a major reason why education is constantly on the chopping block is the result of a cultural sexism which stems from the fact that the majority of educators are women (and that raising children is seen as “women’s work). But the fact is, Nevada will continue to circle the drain until we lower our drop-out rate, increase our proficiency in literacy and math, and become more competitive in the tech and engineering job sectors by increasing our number of residents who are college educated. You can’t do that with a shitty school system that keeps getting attacked by the Nevada Chainsaw Massacre.
- It’s time for comprehensive sex education to come to Nevada. There’s some sort of twisted logic to the fact that the only state in the union that has any form of legal prostitution does not have comprehensive sex education in its schools. And need I remind you that we have one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in America? Seriously. Enough said.
- Let’s build on the positive: There was some real momentum on LGBT issues last session. Keep it coming, folks!
- Don’t let them bully you out of responsible gun laws: Remember how we won a victory by stopping the guns on campus bill last session? It is possible to get it done, folks.
And take heed progressives! Let this be a reminder of how much is at stake!