Declining standards in education are having a real impact on students’ ability to succeed after high school. Far less than half of high school students — only 37 percent according to the latest study — are adequately prepared for college by the time they graduate. This shows a distinct downward trend in recent years. Clearly, the status quo of throwing more money at public education, and praying for better results, just isn’t cutting it. (Read more)
Taxes and fiscal:
Supporters of Nevada’s new gross receipts tax say that repealing the Commerce Tax would create a hole in the state’s budget. In reality, it will do no such thing. Because of when the taxes are collected, 2016’s revenues will remain untouched — giving the 2017 legislature plenty of time to adjust for the change during their normal legislative session. (Read more)
Labor and business:
Many employees prize flexible hours over many other benefits offered by employers. Employers also find such flexibility to be a benefit, as it often increases the company’s ability to attract and retain quality talent. But with President Obama’s latest regulations nearing final approval, these private agreements between bosses and their employees might soon be a thing of the past. The new overtime rules sought by the administration would give government the ability to micromanage how, when and even if certain salaried employees are allowed to readjust their schedule. (Read more)
Since its creation, The Department of Homeland Security has seen its share of waste, abuse and even fraud — all while the department has ballooned in size. Even more surprising, however, is the agency’s obsessive focus on “climate change.” Since 2010 the agency has produced over 10 separate documents on climate change, and has even listed it as a “major security risk” in the key strategic document for the department. (Read more)
For far too long federal bureaucrats in Washington have controlled over 80 percent of Nevada’s lands. Allegedly, its vast resources make Washington a more suitable manager then locals. However, that has not proven to be true and has left locals suffering from mismanagement. Federal agencies have failed to curb the wild horse issue throughout northeastern Nevada — decimating land that would otherwise be available to ranchers for grazing permits. (Read more)
Sharon J. Rossie,
The next enrollment period for ESAs is just about here!
The treasurer does not yet have the new applications available, but we’ll have them on NevadaESA.com as soon as they are made public — no later than Monday.
Parents who still need to sign up for an ESA will have from May 2nd until June 30th to fill out their application and send it to the Treasurer’s Office.
And I’ll be around to help the whole time.
In fact, we have several informational events coming up in the next few weeks aimed at helping parents complete the process. Friday, April 29th, I’ll be headed out to Pahrump to help parents get ready at the Community Christian Academy — and Monday I’ll be back at it in Las Vegas, at Montessori Visions Academy.
The following two weeks will be a blur of activity, so we have posted a full list of events on NevadaESA.com. Keep checking the list, as we’ll be adding to it when we schedule more informational activities.
And any businesses, parents or schools that would like to host an ESA event should send me an email. I’d be happy to try to set something up. It’s important that we keep parents, schools and the community engaged in the fight for educational choice!
On that note, I was recently made aware of a parent who has organized a rally for May 3rd, in support of ESAs. Even though NevadaESA is not involved in the rally, I wanted to make sure everyone here knew about it, in case you would like to be a part of it! The Facebook invite can be found by clicking here.
Here are the details for my informational event in Pahrump on Friday:
ESA and Tax Scholarship information and assistance night
Friday, April 29, 6:00 p.m.
Community Christian Academy
1061 E. Wilson Ave, Pahrump, Nevada
The next few weeks are going to be busy, but I’m looking forward to helping parents fill out their applications and get involved in the fight for ESAs!
Whether or not the PUC decided on an “appropriate” net-metering rebate shouldn’t be the focus of the debate in Nevada. The more important point is that government intervention created this problem in the first place. Given the vested interest NV Energy and solar companies have in big government, it’s not surprising that this point is being ignored. (Read more)
The state healthcare exchanges are a key component of Obamacare — and it looks like they are about to enter freefall. UnitedHealth has announced that they are pulling out of all but “a handful” of state exchanges, after suffering massive losses by participating in the program. Since joining state exchanges in 2015, the company says it has lost roughly $1 billion. (Read more)
Labor and business:
An “avalanche” of new regulations from the White House are about to make life far more difficult for business owners, employees and entrepreneurs. Many of the regulations are little more than government attempts to micromanage the workplace. For example, one requirement mandates that salaried employees making less than $50,000 per year receive overtime pay — and the government even regulates how overtime should be calculated. It’s becoming painfully obvious that Washington DC has no idea how to “stimulate” economic growth — they only know how to hamper it. (Read more)
When Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised 100 million dollars in a matching grant for New Jersey's public schools, everyone had big plans for the money. Unsurprisingly, it has resulted in few (if any) improvements, and massive new costs for the district. A new labor agreement accounted for half of philanthropic package. Predictably, it turned out that most of the money didn't actually make it to the classroom, ending up instead in the pockets of labor union bosses and special interests. (Read more)
Today is Earth Day. So, what has been the most important force in the preservation of the environment? It hasn’t been government. In fact, just the opposite. Free markets, liberty and capitalism are far better stewards of the environment than any big government bureaucracy has ever been. (Read more)
Sharon J. Rossie
Legislators are weighing the possibility of decentralizing the Clark County School District, by adopting a so-called “empowerment” model for 357 public schools. The empowerment model gives individual schools more autonomy over their budgets and curriculum, encouraging more parental involvement and restricting centralized planning from CCSD headquarters. (Read more)
Fiscal and taxes:
We hear plenty about the $19 trillion national debt — but there’s another number that should be on everyone’s mind: $3.4 trillion. That’s how much America’s public sector pension plans are estimated to have in unfunded liabilities. According to a study from the Hoover Institution, without substantive reform to the system this massive funding hole threatens to pull countless municipalities and states into Detroit-style bankruptcy. (Read more)
Electric car company Faraday Futures finally broke ground on their new manufacturing plant in the Apex industrial park this week. Despite the fanfare and glowing press coverage, it is worth pointing out that the company’s projected release date for a commercially available electric car has been moved from 2017, to sometime “in the next couple of years.” (Read more)
Small business and job creation:
When it takes eight times as long to become a make-up artist than an EMT in Nevada, something is wrong. Licensing requirements are a barrier to entering the workforce — especially for low-income workers. Hairdressers, make-up artists and even interior decorators are just a few of the careers that require government licensure. Even more outrageous than the over-regulation of relatively harmless industries, is the absurd and often arbitrary amount of time and money required to obtain government approval. (Read more)
Health insurance providers are warning that losses related to Obamacare reforms are becoming unsustainable. “Either insurers will drop out [of Obamacare exchanges] or insurers will raise premiums,” said Larry Levitt with the Kaiser Family Foundation. Massive spikes in premium costs are expected next year, giving regulators for the “Affordable Care Act” significant reason to worry about the system’s overall sustainability. (Read more)
Sharon J. Rossie
Have you ever gotten a song or lyrics stuck in your head? Well, that's been me since Sunday. For whatever reason, I just can't get the lyrics, "Oh, happy day!" out of my head — or my disposition. Okay, to be honest, I haven't really tried to get them out because despite the recent delays in ESA, I have been completely upbeat and positively charged about the program. Rather than having to look for the silver lining, it is just there.
Let me share with you why.
First and foremost, Nevada families couldn't have better advocates for this program than Treasurer Dan Schwartz and Attorney General Adam Laxalt. I'm not just saying that. They truly have been working effortlessly to protect and advance the Education Savings Account (ESA) program. I have been lucky enough to meet and get to know their team members. Every single person has a personal desire for the success of this program. Each team member takes to heart the more than 5,000 children and families waiting on this program. I can honestly say, staff at the Treasurer's office wants nothing more than to answer calls and emails. It truly pains them to not be available to you. Nevadans could not have more dedicated, committed and passionate advocates. They just couldn't.
But, it's not just Schwartz and Laxalt who support this program. Nevada's other Constitutional officers, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, for instance, and Controller Ron Knecht and his assistant controller, Geoff Lawrence, are all doing their part to support ESA. I’m proud to say, I know personally how committed to ESA Geoff is. He used to be NPRI’s fiscal analyst and introduced ESAs to Nevada and analyzed them in the organization’s Solutions 2013 and Solutions 2015 publications. We also have numerous state senators and members of the Assembly advocating ESA. And, while we don't hear much about it, I'm told Governor Sandoval also supports the program.
Now, if I could just get a picture of all these distinguished folks, with all you parents together in front of our NevadaESA.com sign, wearing a #LetOurChildrenSucceed t-shirt, while tweeting, Facebooking and Instagraming your support… Oh, happy day!
Okay, for sure, another delay in the lawsuits had me grit my teeth a bit. But, to be honest, I’m also of the mind that at least now, everyone has had an opportunity to add their 2 cents. Granted, some groups took many dollars from nearly 5,000 Nevada children in putting in their 2 cents, but everyone’s now in and we can move on without any whining.
Adding the biggest skip in my step this week is all the parents I have talked to lately. Saturday, International Christian Academy invited me to share their booth at Spirit Fest. We passed out nearly 500 brochures. I, myself, spoke with probably 60 families one-on-one. I had a great time playing in the rain — yes, I did! — and informing parents about their new educational choice options, both ESA and the tax scholarship, and hearing their stories. To the sweet little girl in the orange jumpsuit with blue stars, “keep playing in the rain!” You are inspirational.
This past week, I talked to parents wanting to learn more. I’ve talked to parents who have already signed up for an ESA. I’ve talked to parents receiving the tax scholarship. I’ve talked to parents who don’t want the ESA, but offered to help support my effort because they believe in families having options. I’ve even helped parents on the ESA fence determine that their public school is the best fit for their child. And, that my friends, is the brightest silver lining of all. To know that Nevadan’s get it — ESAs are about educational choice and empowering parents to be strong, effective advocates for their child’s education and future — wherever that education comes from.
“Oh, happy day!”
Stay strong! And, #LetOurChildrenSucceed
Sometimes, the case for cutting government spending makes itself pretty obvious. A Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department lieutenant cashed in more than $268,000 of unused leave — boosting his total pay to $500,835 when he retired in 2015. As Robert Fellner, NPRI’s director of transparency research, pointed out, if so much leave is going unused, why was it given in the first place? (Read more)
Nothing about Obamacare is working. Healthcare is not more affordable, comprehensive or accessible than it was before passage of the “Affordable Care Act.” In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the implementation of Obamacare has led to roughly 9 million fewer people on private insurance plans than would otherwise be the case. (Read more)
Climate and environmental:
The attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands is targeting a free-market think tank for questioning the theory of global warming. AG General Claude Walker served the Competitive Enterprise Institute with a subpoena for more than a decade’s worth of communications, statements and even private donor information related to their work on “climate change” issues. Walker’s harassment of the think tank is just the latest development in his investigation against ExxonMobil for “misleading the public about global warming.” (Read more)
Tax day might be April 15th, but do you know which day is Tax Freedom Day? Tax Freedom Day represents the point in the year when average citizens have finally earned enough money to pay their annual tax obligation. Here in Nevada, the average citizen would have to work from January 1st straight through to April 21st in order to earn enough money to pay for their entire year’s tax bill. (Read more)
Sweden might be one of the world’s richest nations, but it wasn’t socialism that created its prosperity. “Imitate the stuff that brought us wealth, not the stuff that brought us ruin,” says Swedish writer and Cato Institute scholar Johan Norberg. Decades of taxing, spending, and a large government severely damaged Sweden’s economy — but tax reform, de-regulation, school choice, and partial privatization of the pension system has brought back new life and success to the European nation. (Watch the video)
Sharon J. Rossie
While we were all staring at that light at the end of the briefing process in Lopez, a quite a bit of maneuvering was happening, pushing the briefing phase out until the end of April.
For those of you newly joining the email list, Lopez is the northern Nevada lawsuit to stop Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) program. This is the case that’s, at least for now, frozen the ESA program. An appeal of the injunction was filed by the State of Nevada (on behalf of Treasurer Dan Schwartz) and the case, on an expedited schedule, is in the briefing phase at the Nevada Supreme Court.
When last I updated, the Respondents (the Lopez Plaintiffs) were due to file their response to the State’s opening brief. The State would then have 10 days to file a reply — due April 11. Since then, several Amici briefs have been filed on behalf of the Respondents.
Now, it is typical to have these “friend of the court” briefs. In fact, it is so typical there are rules covering when such briefs are due. And, as expected, some amici briefs were previously filed… in accordance with court rules. However, several groups have sought, and received, from the Court an extension to file their legal briefs after the deadline — an extension which goes beyond the State’s deadline to file its reply brief.
“[T]he Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People asked the Nevada Supreme Court to extend the expedited briefing period to accommodate their amicus briefs in Lopez v. Schwartz,” noted a press release from the Treasurer’s office earlier today. “The Court granted their request, pushing the final deadline [for their briefs] to April 20.” NV Treasurer Press Release ESA filings
It is unknown why the Supreme Court gave leave of the expedited schedule for these late filings.
In an effort to ensure the State of Nevada has an opportunity to reply to all legal arguments raised in this case, the State (the attorney general’s office) has requested an extension until April 29 to file their reply brief. Respondents filed a non-opposition response today.
So, what does all this legal maneuvering mean to you, the thousands of Nevada families and children waiting in limbo? It means you must wait longer for answers.
I know this probably isn’t much comfort, but please know, your frustration is felt by the Treasurer and Attorney General and they are working diligently to get answers for Nevada families.
Asking for some finality to the process, State Treasurer Dan Schwartz today pointed out that parents
… are tired of defense funds, legal centers, and other groups who show up late in court to protest a program that asks the questions, “if we have spent billions and billions of dollars on our K-12 schools, why is our state ranked 50 out of 50 in education? If our schools are doing such an outstanding job, why is the high school dropout rate close to 50%, and over 65% for Hispanic groups? Not one of these groups answers these questions.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt — firmly supporting Schwartz and the ESA program — also stated:
As we have done from day one, my office will continue to provide the very best defense of Nevada’s ESA program possible, while also seeking to secure certainty for the thousands of Nevada families affected by these lawsuits as quickly as possible.
While many people see me as doing my job in advocating ESAs, I want you to know that my role at NPRI is not just a “job.” It is truly my passion to help families do what they know is best for their children’s education and future. I wholeheartedly feel for your families and what you are enduring. I have lived through being a parent stuck in the system. And, I see the turmoil and stress this roller coaster means on families within my own circle of family and friends. Like you, I struggle to keep the Zen. In all honesty, I draw much of my strength from the support I get from you. Your kind words, your trust in me and the patience you as parents directly affected show, keeps me grounded.
I have to remind myself — sometimes often — that, as my emotions run high, it is important to continue to respect our government process. And, as challenging as it may be sometimes, to let the courts run their course. In the long run, Nevada ESAs will sit on a much more solid foundation. If any changes are truly needed, fair and honest treatment of the questions in the courts will mean a solid foundation for ESAs, parents and our children in the long term.
It is the families of Nevada and our state’s honest leaders who will carry ESA beyond the court room, defense funds, legal centers, etc., and into the future. The petition sends the message to lawmakers that Nevada families want this program. If you put your address and email on the petition, we will be able to connect you with your lawmakers so you can make sure your elected representatives protect and secure the program.
Stay strong! And, #LetOurChildrenSucceed
Just a friendly reminder, today is the last day for 2016’s first ESA enrollment period. If you haven’t submitted your application yet, you had better hustle to the Treasurer’s office in Carson City, or the Grant Sawyer building in Las Vegas by close of business today.
The applications must be received, not post-marked, by today for the Treasurer’s office to accept them. You can print off the application by clicking here, or from the Treasurer’s website.
Please remember, while the Treasurer is accepting applications that arrive, the office is not processing them. Applications are simply being filed until the injunction is lifted (notice my optimism). You will not hear back from the Treasurer’s office on the status of your application.
Also, as a reminder, if you filed an application for a child who’s five or six years old during the early application period, your acceptance letters are waiting to be sent out. They are on hold due to the injunction. The Treasurer’s office asks that you not submit another application.
Here is where you can drop off your applications:
101 N. Carson Street, Suite 4
Carson City, NV 89701
Grant Sawyer Building
Unclaimed Property office
555 E. Washington Ave, Suite 4200
Las Vegas, Nevada 89101
The next enrollment period is scheduled for May 2 – June 30th. As always, if you have any questions or need clarification, feel free to contact me.
Stay strong! And, #LetOurChildrenSucceed
Last week was an amazing time in Reno and Carson City with Nicolette Johnston from the treasurer’s office, Donna Wix from the department of education and Deputy Solicitor General Joseph Tartakovsky from the attorney general’s office. We talked to so many smart parents and educators excited about Nevada’s new educational-options laws and what they mean for Nevada’s future. I can’t wait to get back there and also connect with the rest of the State. Thank you to Brookfield School, Bethlehem Lutheran Elementary School and Sierra Lutheran High School. This outreach effort would not have been possible without your generosity and hospitality!
This update is going to be a quick one…
There is just one week left to send in applications for the 2016 Feb/March ESA application period. Please remember, while the Treasurer is accepting applications that arrive, the office is not processing them. Applications are simply being filed in a drawer until the injunction is lifted (I have faith). You will not hear back from the Treasurer’s office on the status of your application. Therefore, it would be best to send your application certified mail and keep your proof of receipt in case there is a question of delivery in the future. Do not send in your supporting documents yet — just the application.
Also, as a reminder, if you filed an application for a child who’s five or six years old during the early application period, your acceptance letters are waiting to be sent out. They are on hold due to the injunction. The Treasurer’s office asks that you not submit another application. Contact me if you’re freaking outJ.
In the Lopez case (that’s the Carson City lawsuit sponsored by Educate Nevada Now), where the state is appealing to the Nevada Supreme Court and seeking to get the injunction lifted, briefing is still in progress.
The Respondents (the Lopez plaintiffs) have until this Friday to file their response to the opening statement that the Appellants (the State of Nevada) filed March 4. Yes, folks — that means six weeks have already gone by since this case was “expedited.” After the Respondents file their brief, the State will have 10 days to reply.
In Duncan — the ACLU lawsuit — all briefings on the motion to dismiss, preliminary Injunction and jurisdiction are now in the hands of Judge Eric Johnson. Hopefully, we will hear back soon.
Tax Scholarships (AB 165)
I know many of you are also interested in Nevada’s tax scholarship program. In fact, several families are combining ESA and the tax scholarship programs. So, I thought I would give a brief update. Admittedly, I’m not as versed in this program as I am in ESA. However, thanks to your inquiries, I am rapidly catching up. For now, here’s the application status on each of the registered Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGO):
Education Fund of Northern Nevada is now accepting applications for the 2016-17 school year. Don’t let the organization’s name dissuade Southern Nevada families from applying. EFNN must provide scholarships to students across Nevada if eligible— not just Northern Nevada families.
Dinosaurs and Roses, another Nevada based SGO, will begin accepting applications for returning families on May 6th. New applicants may apply beginning May 20th. SGO officials ask applicants to note there will be a brand new application for the 2016-17 school year. While the 2015-16 school year application is still online for parents to see what documents are needed to apply, the SGO will not accept the 2015-16 forms. 2015-16 applications will be returned!
AAA Scholarship Foundation, a national SGO, has opened applications as well. For applications for renewing students, click here. The deadline to apply is April 5. For applications for new students, click here. This deadline to apply is April 18.
It is important to note that AAA uses a more restrictive income-eligibility scale than does the State of Nevada. Under Nevada law, families living below 300 percent of the federal poverty line are eligible for the tax scholarship program. However, AAA’s sliding scale tops out at 250 percent.
Quick tip: Be sure to apply with ALL the Scholarship Granting Organizations.
As always, if you have any questions or need clarification, feel free to contact me. It is truly my pleasure to help you navigate these programs!
Stay strong! And, #LetOurChildrenSucceed
Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.
This week was Sunshine Week — one dedicated across America to the importance of transparency in government.
Because sunlight’s effect on government waste and corruption tends to keep both in check, it’s a cause near and dear to our hearts, here at NPRI, and something we pursue every day.
But we’re not alone. Diverse groups, from across the political spectrum share our goal of exposing government’s inner secrets.
Transparency in government is of critical importance because it allows citizens to judge for themselves whether or not government is living up to its end of our social contract.
After all, when we’re talking about government actions, what we’re really talking about is the way in which government officials have decided to treat us and spend our money.
That’s right. Our money. Government has no wealth of its own, other than that which we give it, and generates no independent revenue. Every dollar the government spends toward any of its numerous projects must first be taken from the pockets of private citizens.
Isn’t it then natural for citizens to know how, exactly, their money is being spent?
- How many billions of dollars has the Clark County School District dished out on “capital improvement projects,” only to have 20-year-old buildings prematurely fall into disrepair?
- What are local governments doing to reduce the hundreds of millions of dollars they have accumulated in unfunded liabilities?
- How many tens of millions of our tax dollars has the Governor’s Office of Economic Development handed out to solar companies that are now threatening to flee the state?
These are all questions that aren’t always easy to answer. Not because of the complexity of the issues, but because government often goes out of its way to make citizens seeking answers face a bureaucratic nightmare.
Transparency, in the end, is about empowering voters, citizens and taxpayers and making government accountable.
It’s about taking power back from the political class and the bureaucrats who currently run the show.
Transparency, thus, has many cheerleaders — who frequently agree on few other issues. Sunlight on government is a cause supported by a wide and diverse number of publicly oriented watchdogs.
Here in Nevada, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Nevada Press Association, just to name a couple, are frequently on the same side as NPRI when it comes to this critical issue. And when that happens, it’s a pretty good sign that government’s preferred status quo just isn’t cutting it.
Happy Sunshine Week. Here at NPRI, we’ll keep working to make transparency the norm.
Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President and staff
Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.