Your questions, answered

Hello again, ESA friends,

My email earlier this week triggered a few really good questions.  So, I’m going to go over those today. 

I applied during a previous enrollment period. Do I need to reapply?

No.  The Treasurer’s office asks that you do not reapply, even if you applied in 2015.

I previously applied and have not heard anything back from the Treasurer’s office.

The Treasurer’s office has not reached out to any applicants since January 9th.  Pending direction from the attorney general's office, the Treasurer will be contacting parents with updates and instructions. 

I previously applied with a paper application and did not turn in any documents.  Do I need to reapply and/or upload my documentation when applications go online?

No.  The Treasurer’s office asks that you do not reapply. Once the Treasurer has clear direction from the Attorney General’s office and has gotten the previous applications situated, they will be reaching out to parents with updates and directions.  Instructions will be given on how to upload your documents or update your file at that time. 

How can I check if the Treasurer received my child’s application?

Until the applications are entered into the database, there is no way to check if an application has been received.  The Treasurer’s staff asks for your patience while they work through the administrative details with the AG’s office and enter data.

If you mailed your application via certified or certified-return-receipt mail, that receipt is your proof of submission should something happen to your application.  Be sure to keep your certificate receipt or green confirmation card. You can track certified mailings by entering your certificate number in here.

When the Treasurer’s office opens enrollment and begins contacting parents, I will be sure to let you know.  In the meantime, please get your documents scanned and ready for uploading.  And, as we gear-up for the 2017 legislative session, please be sure to sign the petition to #LetOurChildrenSucceed.

Thank you to everyone who brought these pressing questions to my attention.  I hope this email helps bring some clarity and reassurance.

Stay strong!

#LetOurChildrenSucceed

~Karen 

 

Study: Nevada teachers’ retirement benefits slashed a national-high 14 percent to offset PERS debt

By Robert Fellner

Nevada teachers are paying more to bail out their share of the nation’s combined $1.75 trillion in public pension debt than teachers in any other state, according to a just-released study by Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Josh B. McGee.

In Feeling the Squeeze: Pension Costs Are Crowding Out Education Spending, McGee documents how rising pension costs have siphoned resources from vitally needed education services, particularly teachers’ salaries and retirement benefits.

Nationally, McGee found that “teachers earned retirement benefits worth about 1.01% of payroll less in 2015 than in 2005” as states reduced the size of retirement benefits offered to new hires in an attempt to slow down the growth of pension debt. Nevada teachers, however, saw their retirement benefits reduced by an amount worth 14.07% of total payroll — which was the largest reduction experienced by teachers of any state.

Making matters worse, this reduction in retirement benefits has occurred alongside an increase in the amount today’s teachers must pay to PERS —as NPRI previously reported here, here and here.

As the below chart makes clear, Nevada teachers are paying PERS more, while getting much less in return.

McGee correctly pins the blame for this inequity on irresponsible benefit enhancements that were passed in earlier years, without properly accounting for their added cost.

The particulars of Nevada’s experiences with these types of enhancements — which occurred incrementally during the 1990s before ultimately culminating with the 2001 Senate Bill 349 — can be found here.

PERS itself had lobbied on behalf of those enhancements in the past — with former CEO George Pyne advocating for the now universally-reviled practice of using short-term investment gains to pay for enhancements, as opposed to saving for the inevitable market downturn.

Today, however, even current CEO Tina Leiss has correctly warned the Board to be wary of any requests for new enhancements, citing their potential to carry unanticipated additional costs.

McGee concludes by stressing just how devastating these costs can be:

“Now the cost of paying for legacy-benefit promises to teachers for work in yesterday’s classrooms is crowding out the salaries and benefits of teachers entering classroom todays, with potentially negative implications for students.”

The full study can be downloaded from the Manhattan Institute’s website here.

For NPRI’s analyses of the Nevada PERS situation, visit: http://www.npri.org/issues/detail/pers

Robert Fellner is the director of transparency for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank.

 

ESA Update: Delayed Enrollment

Hello ESA friends,

As many of you know, today should mark the start of a new ESA enrollment period.  However, the Treasurer’s office has delayed enrollment pending guidance from the Nevada Attorney General’s Office. The office hopes to open the online enrollment portal no later than November 8th, 2016. Yes, enrollment will go back to the online version where you will be prompted to upload your documents.  So, be sure get your documents scanned.

If you need help scanning documents, let me know and we can assist with that.  Documents needed:

  • Copy of the parent’s valid Government issued ID
  • A certified or verified copy of the student’s birth certificate (this can be a clear photo copy) AND Proof of legal guardianship (if you’re not the biological parent)
  • Copy of your most current utility bill (applicant parent name and address) OR
  • Copy of current property tax bill OR rental lease agreement (applicant parent name and address)
  • If you answered yes to your child having disabilities you must provide a copy of your current Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a letter from a doctor.
  • If you answered yes to your annual household income falling within the 185% poverty line you must provide proof by submitting (a copy of last year’s tax return (first 2 pages) or a current paystub)
  • If you are a military family currently serving in Nevada, you must provide a copy of your current orders

So, what about funding?

As you know, the Nevada Supreme Court declared the ESA program constitutional but found the Nevada legislature failed to correctly fund the program. Despite the lack of appropriation, it remains the goal of the Treasurer’s office to continue to accept enrollments into the program while a permanent funding solution is sought. But, folks, be sure to note that, due to a lack of an appropriation, applicants are not guaranteed funding at this time.

For the past several weeks, many parents have been calling on Governor Sandoval and Nevada lawmakers to fund ESA.  And, boy, was it a testament to the passion parents have for their children’s education! Unfortunately, it looks like there will continue to be a wait before lawmakers have an opportunity to present a fix. 

Even Treasurer Dan Schwartz, whose office expedited regulations, has fought and won two court cases, and who has worked day and night to get ESA funded, sent his apologies to Nevada families over the weekend.

“I can only apologize to Nevada moms and dads,” writes Treasurer Schwartz in an op-ed to the Reno-Gazette Journal, “for our party’s failure to keep our word.” He was referring to Governor Sandoval and Nevada’s Republican legislative leaders who failed to fund ESA during the last special session.

Friends, I admit, I felt deflated this morning. But, I am not defeated! 

Governor Sandoval has committed to fund ESA in 2017.  Nevadans, I have no doubt, will hold him to that.  Call me crazy, but I still have faith. So, I’m taking a moment, inhaling a deep breath and gearing up with the folks here at NevadaESA.com to fight strong in 2017. Treasurer Schwartz, Governor Sandoval and 8,000+ plus Nevada kiddos are going to need all the support they can get.  

Some of you may recall that NevadaESA.com launched a petition showing support for ESAs back in January.  If you have not already done so, be sure to check it out and sign on if you want Nevada’s officials to protect our ESA program.

#LetOurChildrenSucceed

~Karen

 

PERS funding shortfall, despite strong investment returns, highlights need for reform

Kudos to Steve Edmundson’s low-cost investment approach that has helped the Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) outperform their peers in recent years (“Nevada goes passive to beat peers,” Oct. 19).

But exclusively focusing on investments overlooks PERS ultimate objective: to have enough money to make good on its promises. With a funded ratio of only 71 percent, the system is below average nationwide and far short of the 100 percent target the American Academy of Actuaries recommends.

Because U.S. public pensions discount liabilities by assumed investment returns — for PERS it’s 8 percent — anything less than that creates a funding shortfall. Consequently, PERS has fallen further into debt over the past decade, despite outperforming peers with a 6.2 percent annualized investment return.

But investment markets are inherently risky, which is why the best any fund manager can do is target an average return. In other words, even a portfolio perfectly built to hit PERS 8 percent expected target will underperform 50 percent of the time!

This is why pension systems in the private sector, the federal government and internationally use discount rates that reflect the strength of the promise made to retirees — who expect to get paid 100 percent of the time and not just during periods of strong investment returns.

The PERS Board should follow suit.

Alternatively, the Legislature could create a new PERS tier — similar to the reforms in neighboring Arizona and Utah — that would fund members’ promised benefits with the same level of certainty as their expectation of receiving them.

While this system would still benefit from above-average investment returns, it wouldn’t depend on them — which is far too great a burden to impose on any investment manager, no matter how talented.

Robert Fellner is the director of transparency research at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. A condensed version of this letter to the editor was originally published in the Wall Street Journal.

 

In case you missed it...

Eminent domain:

The family whose mining property overlooks top-secret Area 51 says the Air Force went too far when it seized the land. According to some independent appraisers, the property is estimated to be worth between $44 million and $116 million — a far cry from the $333,300 the government offered when it enforced eminent domain. (Read more)

 

Federal lands:

While the rest of the country celebrates Halloween, Nevada residents have another added bonus to the weekend: Nevada Day. The Silver State is one of the only states to continually celebrate the day it came into the union — but perhaps Nevadans should take a minute and think about what it actually means to be a state. One issue has continued to haunt us since the day Nevada first entered the union: our state lands. Currently about 87 percent of the land in our state is owned and managed by the federal government. Now that’s a scary thought. (Read more)

 

Healthcare:

Obamacare — titled “The Affordable Care Act” — is not turning out to be “affordable” by any stretch of the imagination. The Obama administration’s own Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that Americans will experience double-digit premium hikes in the next year, and that one out of every five Americans will have only one health insurer to choose from. But now, as it seems Obamacare is in a death spiral, the president is planning on using taxpayer dollars to bail it out. (Read more)

 

Free speech:

Dr. Eric Walsh, a Seventh Day Adventist lay minister who was hired by the Georgia government in 2014 as a state health official, is fighting for his right to religious freedom. The state of Georgia began investigating Walsh’s “religious activities” back in 2014 and eventually ended up firing him due to activities related to his church. But things have since gotten even worse, with state officials now demanding that Walsh provide investigators with transcripts and notes of all of his sermons. (Read more)

 

Fraud and abuse:

Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war. The Pentagon, however, claims that the incentives were overused — often abused — by California National Guard authorities who were pressured to hit enlistment targets. As a result, nearly 10,000 soldiers have been ordered by the Pentagon to pay back the bonuses out of their own pocket. (Read more)

 

Hello ESA friends

I know you’ve recently received a lot of emails from me in a short period of time. Since the Supreme Court ruling, ESA has been very much a moving issue and I want to keep you as up-to-date as possible, and, hopefully inspire you as much as you have inspired me. So, please bear with me through this time.  

First, I just want to say, the recent outpouring from parents and community members for ESA has been absolutely awe-inspiring. Not just to me, but to those very folks you are trying to reach. Yesterday, I was speaking with one lawmaker who expressed heartfelt admiration for how respectful the letters and calls have been. Even letters expressing frustration and anger conveyed support, giving legislators the strength and drive to keep fighting. And, we’ve all needed some of that along the way.

I’m also told that the individualized stories of the children are beginning to resonate with lawmakers as real lives and futures, rather than mere statistics. That kind of impact is what really moves the needle.

As I told you last week, possible solutions to ESA funding exist. I’ve been told at least one solution is ready to go. However — there’s always a “but” — that solution will take a legislative act to implement. And, as we all know, that means Governor Sandoval must convene another special session and place ESAs on the agenda. Then, the legislature, of course, will have to approve any bill or bills.

I know, I know, it seems rather simple: Governor Sandoval can just call another special session and get this thing done. But, let’s be realistic, it’s never that simple. The Governor has many considerations he must weigh when making a decision. And, yes, that includes the political environment.

Make no mistake, friends: ESA is still a highly charged issue. Some witnessed fireworks during the recent special session — and we’ve all lived through it, given the lawsuits and the continuing organized campaigns to cripple the program. Senate Bill 302’s own legislative history demonstrates clearly the divide on the issue.

But, notwithstanding the divide, there still remains one overarching factor that all elected officials are cognizant of — the constituency.

Our government is built on the premise of “we the people.” And believe me, “you the people,” are having your voices heard. They’re now a living presence in this state. Lawmakers and others in Carson City are being inspired by your words and your stories. Your voices continue to be part of their conversation. I know I may sound repetitive, but I truly believe in our government system and the power of the people — the power of phone calls, emails, tweets and Facebook posts.

Governor Sandoval and all the elected in Carson City continue to listen to you. The very consistency of the public’s attention to this issue, I’m told, has made an immense impact. One just never knows when — or with whom — one’s heartfelt communications will push something as important as this over the hump and turn it into concrete reality.

You can share, or continue to share your thoughts with Governor Sandoval, by email at http://gov.nv.gov/Contact/Email-the-Governor/, by phone at 775-684-5670 or 702-486-2500. Governor Sandoval can also be reached on  Facebook and Twitter at @GovSandoval.

You may also want to contact the legislative leadership and let them know your thoughts.

Just last evening, in fact, a parent told me of a phone call she’d received back from Senator Roberson, the State Senate majority leader, that very day. Honestly, they really do want to hear your voices.

NevadaESA.com has posted the emails and social media contacts for Nevada lawmakers here. You can also find a directory and phone number for state Senators here and the Assembly Members here. Don’t forget to use the social media hashtags, #LetOurChildrenSucceed and #NVleg — and be sure to amplify each other’s voices by retweeting and sharing everyone’s Facebook posts.

Thank you for your inspiration. I continue to have faith.

#LetOurChildrenSucceed

~Karen

 

 

In case you missed it...

Free speech:

Most Americans agree that — under the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights and also what the Declaration of Independence spoke of as the laws of Nature’s God — they have a fundamental right to speak, write or express political views without fear of government censorship. And yet, some members of the Federal Election Commission seem to disagree. Recently, the commission has been exploring the possibility of subjecting politically themed books, television shows and even movies to the bureaucratic web of “campaign finance” laws and regulations. (Read more)

 

Education reform:

Families in Nevada are still holding their breath for educational choice — putting pressure on the Governor and lawmakers to fund the state’s Education Savings Account program. Nationally, however, Nevada’s program continues to be an inspiration for states that would like to implement their own sweeping education reform. (Read more)

 

Climate change alarmism:

As partisan leftwing attorneys general continue to bully and intimidate companies that question the dubious “settled science” of man-made global warming, Exxon Mobil Corp. has decided to fight back. Earlier this week, Exxon asked a federal judge to put an end to the abusive behavior of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who seeks to subpoena any and all company documents that might bear on the company’s stance on energy policy. (Read more)

 

Socialism:

Younger generations are comparatively accepting of socialism and communism. Almost half of Americans between the ages of 16 and 20 said they would be happy to vote for a socialist, while 21 percent would go so far as to back an admitted communist. Part of this trend might be due to the fact that millennials are severely uneducated about the historical record of collectivism. For example, more than a quarter of Americans — including about a third of millennials — said they thought George W. Bush was responsible for more death and destruction than Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader who ordered the murder of more than 20 million people. (Read more)

 

Public Employee Retirement System:

Ever wonder where state and local government workers pay America’s highest public pension costs? According to research from the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, it is Nevada. That might not be a surprise for many policy experts, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be common knowledge with PERS membership, or the PERS board. Nevada teachers, however, are catching on — as they deal with an ever-increasing contribution rate. (Read more)

 

Parents, your voices really are making a difference!

Good morning friends,

I know you’ve been waiting patiently for an update on last week’s special session and ESA funding. But right off, I want to let you know that Treasurer Schwartz and his team at Treasury have been completely occupied in advocating for the immediate funding of the ESA program. So, at this time, I don’t have any administrative updates on the program. As soon as I hear, I will walk you through any changes.

Friends, ESA is still very much alive and the topic of discussion and action in Carson City. In fact, this week I was contacted by the state’s telecom department because the governor’s office has been “inundated” with ESA phone calls.

I know you may feel defeated by all the attention given to the stadium. But what I hope you can take away from the stadium deal is that you can — and did — make a difference. Your voice did matter. It was heard and made a direct impact. ESA was sidelined, but you brought it back to the huddle. I know you’re tired and frustrated, but continued phone calls, emails, texts, tweets and Facebook posts are making a real difference.

Believe me when I tell you, your voices really are making a difference. It is imperative that Governor Sandoval and all Nevada lawmakers continue to hear from the public!

You can share your thoughts with Governor Sandoval, by email at http://gov.nv.gov/Contact/Email-the-Governor/, by phone at 775-684-5670 or 702-486-2500. Governor Sandoval can also be reached on  Facebook and Twitter at @GovSandoval.

NevadaESA.com has posted the emails and social media contacts for Nevada lawmakers here. You can also find a directory and phone number for state Senators here and the Assembly Members here. Don’t forget to use the social media hashtags, #LetOurChildrenSucceed and #NVleg.

When last week’s special session began without ESA on agenda, many thought the program was sidelined until the 2017 legislative session. But then, your calls, your emails, your tweets, your Facebook posts and texts began to come in… and continued to come in… and continued… and continued. Not just to the Governor, but to every lawmaker in the Silver State. And, rising from the bench, ESA was soon back in play. And Nevada’s Assembly went into overtime fighting for ESA funding.

I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate the power of your voices than this midnight tweet during the marathon Assembly discussion on SB 1 (Raider stadium) last week. Yes, a gauntlet of paid lobbyists were in the hallways singing, “Are you ready for some football?”

But, in defense of your voices and the ESA program, enough Nevada lawmakers had hunkered down to cause a stalemate on the stadium bill.

Of course, ultimately the stadium bill passed without ESA funding. However, not until a timeout was called at 1:30 in the morning, and, as some lawmakers have reported, Sandoval’s team made some ESA promises. Accounts of the exact nature, details and politics of those promises vary. But the one constant is Sandoval’s commitment to the ESA program.

Now, I wish I could tell you Gov. Sandoval was going to champion that ESA funding tomorrow. I can’t.

But what I can tell you is that the discussion of funding ESA now is still very much alive. Everyone — from Sandoval to the ESA task force, from the attorney general’s office to the treasurer’s office to lawmakers — is looking at solutions.

And, I’m told there are possible solutions. They might not be final solutions. But, there are possible options to get the program up and running immediately.

So, here’s the bottom line:

Nevada has one of the worst public school systems in the country. Nevada also hails the #1, most expansive educational choice program in the country. Unfortunately, that program remains unfunded and the futures of 8,000 Nevada children hang in the balance of political chance.

While Governor Sandoval has promised to make ESA his priority and champion the cause in the next legislative session, the reality is, he cannot control the political make-up of the 2017 legislature.

ESA opponents are also focused on ESAs — to block funding and dismantle the program. If ESA does not secure a funding mechanism before Election Day, there’s a strong possibility the program could fall into a political black hole. Heck, the Raiders could play football in their new stadium before the nation’s #1 educational choice program receives a dime of funding.

Right now — today — Nevada’s ESA program has a team of champions: a governor committed to the program, a treasurer fighting around the clock for 8,000 kiddos who applied to the program, a victorious legal team in the attorney general’s office diligently sorting the legal avenues, an ESA task force of lawmakers working to coordinate solutions and the 2015 legislature that passed the program, all poised to fund it.

ESAs are still the talk of Carson City. Folks are still working to get the program started this school year. That effort, to succeed, needs the public’s continued support, strength — and fight!

Again, you can share your thoughts with the Governor and all the lawmakers at the contact information above!

I’m often asked, “What should I write or say?” In all honesty, I am uncomfortable telling anyone what to say. The message must come from your heart. For parents, there are as many reasons for ESA as the thousands of children in the applications.

If you’re a parent, simply introduce yourself and your child. Share a little something personal about yourselves and tell Sandoval and lawmakers why ESA is important to you and your child. Thank the official for their time and service. Then, plead for them to save your child from political chance and fund ESA now.

I’m also asked if it’s okay to express anger or frustration. Now, there might be some who disagree, but I think it is only fair to share with Governor Sandoval and lawmakers your true feelings whether that’s anger, frustration, exasperation or disappointment. Of course, there’s a mature way to do that without calling people names or being hateful. Remember, our elected officials, regardless of which side of ESA they are on, believe in what they are doing. They are real people too. And, sometimes, as I explained in a previous email, the only viewpoints they know are those of lobbyists and special interests. But when they hear from a motivated constituency it gives an issue real life perspective. Your voice has impact.

Basically, parents and community supporters can definitely have a big say in what happens.

Fight strong!

#LetOurChildrenSucceed

~Karen

 

 

National study finds Nevada pension costs are crowding-out education spending

A study released today from one of the nation’s top public pension experts, Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Josh B. McGee, documents how soaring pension costs are crowding out spending on educational services at public schools nationwide.

The study, Feeling the Squeeze: Pension Costs Are Crowding Out Education Spending, highlights Nevada as one of only eight states that have “experienced the double whammy of declining per-pupil expenditures and growing pension contributions” over the 2000-2013 time period surveyed.

Nevada per-pupil educational spending declined 13 percent while pension contributions grew 16 percent. In dollar terms, per-pupil pension contributions increased by $195 while education expenditures declined by $1,259.

McGee notes that the two areas that appear to suffer the most from rising pension costs are, ironically, teacher salaries and retirement benefits.

This finding is consistent with previous NPRI reports — see here and here — that those losing the most from the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada (PERS) are recent and future teachers themselves.

While per-pupil spending on teacher salaries increased 2 percent nationally, Nevada experienced an 11 percent decline.

Only three states fared worse, according to the study.

The reduction in retirement benefits was even worse. In part due to the benefit reductions passed for all teachers hired after July 1, 2015, Nevada teachers saw their average future benefits cut by an amount worth approximately 14 percent of payroll.

That is the largest reduction nationwide and well above the national average cut of 1 percent of payroll.

McGee concludes by warning that this problem is only going to worsen in coming years — as costs are set to rise even if plans hit their highly optimistic assumptions!

In Nevada, McGee projects a 1.5 percent annual increase in PERS costs if all assumptions are hit. That increase jumps to 3.5 percent if the system only returns the 6 percent their investment advisor has forecast.

The full study can be downloaded from the Manhattan Institute’s website here.

For NPRI’s analyses of the Nevada PERS situation, visit: http://www.npri.org/issues/detail/pers

Robert Fellner is the director of transparency for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank.

 

In case you missed it…

 

‘More Cops’ tax:

Nevada lawmakers gave final approval to a bill authorizing an in increase in the Clark County sales tax for the purpose of hiring more police officers. Passing unanimously in the Senate after having only 7 members vote against it in the Assembly, the increase in the “More Cops” tax now awaits Governor Sandoval’s signature. However, the main justification Las Vegas Metro Sheriff Joseph Lombardo used to persuade lawmakers is directly contradicted by Metro’s own crime numbers. (Read more)

 

Raider’s stadium bill:

By Friday morning, lawmakers had yet to pass a bill providing public-financing for a football stadium in Las Vegas. Thursday night lawmakers debated the issue for 17 hours, after the Las Vegas Review-Journal revealed that almost $900 million in infrastructure and highway spending would have to be accelerated to accommodate the building of the stadium. (Read more) 

 

Political correctness:

The University of Florida has informed students that it will provide around-the-clock “counseling services” to any students who feel offended by Halloween costumes. A statement was put on the school’s website encouraging students to contact the schools “Bias Education and Response Team” about any costumes that might “reinforce stereotypes of particular races, genders, cultures, or religions.” (Read more)

 

Civil asset forfeiture:

Arizona law enforcement is facing a lawsuit, after confiscating a vehicle that belonged to an elderly couple. Law enforcement seized and impounded the car after a traffic stop of the couple’s son, who was driving the car. According to the police report, officers had found “personal use marijuana and drug paraphernalia,” but as of October, no official charges for any crime stemming from the traffic stop had been filed. Now the couple is suing, and the FBI is even investigating local law enforcement for abuse of civil-asset-forfeiture laws. (Read more)

 

Healthcare policy:

A growing number of people getting their health insurance through the Obamacare exchange are finding out their plans will disappear from the program next year, forcing them to find new coverage even as options shrink and prices rise. Bloomberg News estimates that at least 1.4 million people in 32 states will lose the Obamacare plan they now have, as insurance providers continue to flee the exchange due to unsustainable losses. (Read more)

 

Total Records: 2015

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