Commentary: ‘Education Initiative’ is really disastrous Margins Tax
A July 25 letter in the Reno Gazette-Journal from a retired Washoe County School District employee shows that the teachers’ union campaign for the margins tax on the November ballot will reach new lows of dishonesty and deception.
The deception starts with the title of ballot question 3, “The Education Initiative,” with 84 confusing sections, but only one on education. The letter by Stephen Norman of Sparks says it “was developed to provide appropriate funding for a quality education for all Nevada children.” The measure does not assure that a single new penny goes to K-12, but they gave it the “Education” title to con voters into believing it will better education.
If the proponents of the tax had any wholesome intent and intellectual competence, they would say just how much the measure will raise our taxes ($700 million a year) and how much of that will be spent on education. Instead, they hide behind bland and misleading phrases like “appropriate funding.”
Norman says, “Nevada’s education budget has been cut by $700 million since 2009!” He gives no source for this claim, but by its very terms it’s intentionally misleading. The reason is that it references budgets, which include wish lists of school districts and other tax-eaters. An explanation of the ways in which such budget figures are artificially inflated to mislead and be useless is so long that it must wait for another day.
The key facts about actual spending are these: Over the last 20 years, state general fund K-12 spending in real terms (net of inflation) per student has risen about 40 percent — faster than spending on any other major budget category. However, the per-person real incomes of Nevada families and businesses paying the taxes to support those schools rose only about 10 percent. That is, despite all the rhetoric about shorting our schools and kids, the spending has risen hugely and become an ever larger burden — by 30 percent — for beleaguered taxpayers.
In fact, total state spending in that time, driven by rapid increases in K-12 and Health and Human Services, has risen about 20 percent faster than the incomes of Nevadans. Worse, in the Great Recession and Obama’s non-recovery of the last five years, per-person real incomes of Nevadans have fallen by 10 percent while state K-12 real per-student spending has increased by that amount. The only actual spending cuts occurred after the Legislature’s blow-out when it foolishly hiked 2009 real per-student spending 19 percent.
Norman falsely claims, “Our schools spend just over $7,000 per student, whereas the national average is well over $11,000. As a result, Nevada ranks at or near the bottom on nearly measures of education quality.” In fact, for school year 2011-12 (the latest one for which complete state-by-state figures are available), Nevada revenues spent on K-12 were $9,457 per student, and that figure is now near or above $10,000. The teachers’ union likes to quote lower “current spending” figures, as if the dollars we pay to build new schools don’t really count and aren’t a burden on our families and businesses.
To recruit, support and advocate for candidates for public office who support private sector job creation, low taxation, a responsible regulatory environment, and effective delivery of essential state services.