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.
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.
‘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)
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)
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)
I know that many of you have been letting the Governor and legislature know how important ESAs are to you and your family.
Contact information for most of the legislators is now posted on NevadaESA.com, along with a link that lets you look up your specific representatives.
The attention being drawn to ESAs, by parents, really is having an impact in Carson City. Despite not being included in the special session, everyone is talking about the wave of parents that are demanding a fix to this groundbreaking reform!
But a fix will only come about if parents keep up their push! Being quiet, or disengaging, is exactly what ESA opponents want.
So if you want your voice to be heard, check out NevadaESA.com for the list of legislator contact information!
It might not be on the agenda for the special session, but everyone is talking about ESAs!
I’ll be speaking about ESAs to the Las Vegas Republican Townhall Group this evening. If you want to attend, it would be great to see you there. The meeting will be on Wednesday, October 12th at 7 pm, at Charlie's Lakeside Inn. That’s on the Southwest corner of W. Sahara and Durango.
The Townhall folks are anxious to learn about ESAs, and it’s encouraging to see the conversation picking up steam. Governor Sandoval’s Facebook page is still blowing up with comments from parents — and everyone in Carson City is talking about the pressure parents have put on lawmakers to fix ESAs.
If you want to keep the pressure on, keep those tweets and posts going to lawmakers! Share comments on Facebook and Twitter, and keep letting lawmakers know that parents are demanding a fix. Tagging the Governor and lawmakers will help amplify your voices, and using the hashtags #NVleg and #LetOurChildrenSucceed will help spread the message.
Here’s how you can contact the legislative leadership and let them know your thoughts.
- Sen. Majority Leader Michael Roberson, Michael.Roberson@sen.state.nv.us, 702-612-6929@RobersonForNV
- Assembly Speaker John Hambrick, John.Hambrick@asm.state.nv.us, 702-242-8580@hambrick4assemby
- Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, Paul.Anderson@asm.state.nv.us, 702-410-6645 @anderson4nv
- Minority Leader Aaron Ford, Aaron.firstname.lastname@example.org, 702-772-5544, @AaronDFordNV
Keep the conversation going! Make your voice heard!
Good morning ESA friends!
We are entering into Day Two of the special session.
While the ESA funding issue, as you know, is not on the agenda, it certainly is the topic of discussion in legislative halls and doorways. And folks, that’s because Nevada parents and community are making their voices heard!
Believe me, you are sending a message!
Governor Sandoval’s Facebook page is lighting up with comments from parents and everyone in Carson City is taking note, I’m told. Twitter is all abuzz with support for ESAs, too. Apparently, those distinguished folks at the Capitol are now big-time social-media people. They monitor Twitter and Facebook all day.
I’ve been asked what difference does it make to voice your opinion if ESA isn’t on the agenda?
My first response is, it always matters when constituents voice their opinions. After all, the elected folks are legal agents of the people and so they’re ultimately subject to our will. And this means they must know the will of their constituents. Even if some people say nothing can be done until February — though others think something can be — that’s no reason to not send your message now.
Secondly, you never know who is doing what to support your position, in this case, funding ESAs now. For instance, yesterday while watching the special session online, I witnessed Treasurer Dan Schwartz talking to various lawmakers during a break. Folks, he and others are still fighting for the 8,000 children hanging in limbo.
Yes, the ESA program and 8,000 children were sidelined in this special session. Getting an ESA amendment may or may not happen, but folks are still fighting for our kiddos. Treasurer Schwartz is fighting hard. Many legislators support ESA and funding the program now. ESAs are a cornerstone of Governor Sandoval’s education reforms, and the Governor still says ESAs are a priority.
Legislative work is still ongoing through committees. Perhaps, a solution can be found there.
If you want to keep the ESA conversation moving, keep those tweets and posts going to Governor Sandoval and every lawmaker. And be sure to lift up the voices of others you agree with by retweeting and sharing their comments and thoughts. Tagging the Governor and lawmakers will also help amplify your voices. Using the hashtags #NVleg and #LetOurChildrenSucceed are also good ways to be noticed.
Oh, my friends, your voices are being heard!
Here’s how you can contact the legislative leadership and let them know your thoughts.
- Sen. Majority Leader Michael Roberson, Michael.Roberson@sen.state.nv.us, 702-612-6929 @RobersonForNV
- Assembly Speaker John Hambrick, John.Hambrick@asm.state.nv.us, 702-242-8580 @hambrick4assemby
- Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, Paul.Anderson@asm.state.nv.us, 702-410-6645 @anderson4nv
- Minority Leader Aaron Ford, Aaron.email@example.com, 702-772-5544, @AaronDFordNV
You may remember, Senator Roberson was a supporter of the exemptions for military and the under-seven kids during the regulation process. I’m sure he would welcome hearing your support for ESA.
Phone calls and emails are also good ways to send your opinions. Share your opinion through all available means, calls, emails, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. You can find a directory of emails and phone numbers for state Senators here and the Assembly Members here.
Here are a few twitter handles I’ve identified on #NVleg: @SenPFarleyNV , @hammond4nevada, @beckyharrisnv, @Ben_Kieckhefer, @Jones4Nevada, @RubenKihuen, @VictoriaDseaman. NevadaESA.com is working on gathering more twitter handles and Facebook pages. If you know of any, feel free to email them to me. I’m not so good at this social media stuff and welcome all the help you can offer.
Keep the conversation going! Make your voice heard!
To complete the job on Nevada’s precedent-setting education reform, Education Savings Accounts, all lawmakers need do is fix the funding formula. Then 8,000 students currently in political limbo will be able to pursue personalized education that best suits their needs. While Governor Sandoval has refused to place the issue on the agenda for next week’s special session, he’s pledged to focus on fixing the program’s funding when the 2017 regular session begins. (Read more)
Public Employee Retirement System:
NPRI’s Transparency Director, Robert Fellner, made it out to Pahrump Thursday, to talk about the need for public employee pension reform. “The biggest problem I see with the [current] system,” he explained, “is that the highest costs are pushed out onto future generations.” As a consequence, he said, new hires are increasingly seeing fewer and fewer benefits, despite paying higher and higher contributions into the system. (Read more)
Fiscal and taxes:
Despite not using “More Cops” funds to actually provide Las Vegas with the promised influx of more police officers, Metro is now asking for an increase in the More Cops tax — to supposedly hire more cops. Digging deeper into the numbers, it is now clear that Metro has actually gone out of its way to keep a huge balance of unused funs in the More Cops account. In fact, the agency even dipped into its general fund to hire police officers, despite having more than $100 million in money earmarked for that very purpose. (Read more)
The president of a nonprofit think tank once found a gutted rabbit outside her house after she dared to oppose public financing for a local hockey arena. “This is a world where sometimes people do crazy things and they get very heated about issues, even sports,” says Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute. “All Americans have the right to support causes they believe in without fear of harassment or intimidation,” she says — and now Olsen is fighting to make sure that right is preserved. (Read more)
A government watchdog has found that the federal government spends big sums of money on trying to sell itself to the American people. The Government Accountability Office found that over the last decade, annual federal spending on public relations and advertising activities averaged $1.5 billion. The report detailed how much was spent on PR and marketing contracts, as well as on salaries for public workers hired to carry out such work. (Read more)
Hello again ESA friends,
Is anyone else’s head spinning? Or is it just mine?
I’m sure you are all probably aware by now it’s been announced that Governor Sandoval will not place ESA funding on agenda for the upcoming special session marked for Monday.
Now, when this announcement first came out, my emotions, and I’m sure yours too, ran the gamut — anger, frustration and even compassion towards the Governor. I pondered all day this email and what to say.
My first kneejerk reaction was to charge the Governor with caring more about a sports stadium and its big-money backers than the children of this state. But, as we all know, kneejerk reactions often aren’t levelheaded and are exactly the kind of reactions the opposition wants from us. Besides, I think Treasurer Dan Schwartz’s expression of disappointment eloquently stated what many parents are thinking: “The football stadium is certainly a boon to our economy, but the education of our children is priceless.”
Then, completely frustrated over all the partisan politics triggered by ESAs, I pondered a lot of outrageous possibilities. I spare you the gory details. Like I said, emotions were running the gamut.
But, a profound email I received from one parent actually worked me into a place of compassion for Sandoval. “We are truly blessed to have a man of integrity in our Governor's office,” wrote a member of this email list. So I envisioned the Governor standing alone, getting hit from every side of the political spectrum. Maybe parents could spring into action and give our Governor a coat of armor by putting on enough heat so he could stand tall for ESAs, knowing Nevada parents and community members had his back.
But I realized, a governor — or any elected official for that matter — of integrity would not need a shield. He or she would already be wearing a suit of armor.
Obviously, going through all these emotions, I was in no state to be writing any kind of email. So, I sauntered off to bed sometime after midnight. Somewhere between 2 and 3 a.m. it hit me. I knew what I would write. So, here I am wide awake. And, by the looks of Facebook, I’m not the only one losing sleep tonight.
Friends, I’m not going to dance around the elephant in the room — no pun intended. I’m going to give it to you straight. It’s what you deserve. It is your families and the lives and futures of your 8,000 children hanging in the balance.
Okay, we all know this, I’m not saying anything we don’t know, I’m just going to say it out loud: Nevada’s ESA program is a divided, partisan, political football. Frequently I’m asked, “Who voted for and against SB 302?” The record is, all Republicans voted for it and all Democrats voted against it. It’s that simple. And, it’s that difficult.
Nevada’s ESA program is the most comprehensive in the country and has overcome every constitutional challenge thrown at it. But Nevada’s lawmakers failed, say the courts, to correctly appropriate the program in 2015. So it remains unfunded. It’s that simple. And, it’s that difficult.
Governor Sandoval alone has the authority to allow an ESA appropriation bill on the agenda for the upcoming special session. He has yet to do so. It’s that simple. And, it’s that difficult.
In 2017, families across this state will continue to cling to the hope of the ESAs. The program will still be a partisan issue and the groups that want to keep your kids chained to their zip code public schools, regardless of the school’s performance or your child’s educational needs, will continue campaigning to keep ESAs unfunded — or dismantle the program altogether. It’s that simple — and, it’s that difficult.
But, I will tell you, I have traveled many miles in this state. I have met thousands of parents. And, I’m witnessing the power of parents.
Parents know, and are completely irritated and frustrated, that ESA is a political football — again, no pun intended. Yet, they remain focused on what is best for their children. “Let’s try to make this a less partisan issue,” writes one parent on Facebook. And friends, those conversations, the ones to move ESAs beyond partisan politics, are taking place.
In one Facebook thread, a parent writes, “prayer is the only sure thing that works! And voting correctly!”
“Well,” writes another parent in a different conversation, “the problem is voting republican puts me in opposition of some very strongly held beliefs.” Reading the conversation, it was obvious, Nevada parents are contemplating seriously their priorities — party affiliation versus their children.
Now, I know by hanging the facts out on the line, there’s a risk that some of you will find this whole situation just too difficult.
But, after watching the changing conversations and beholding the passion and resolve I’ve seen from Nevada parents, I can see ESAs crossing the finish line. I can envision a program where the partisan politics are lessened. It’s not simple, but I can see it.
Believe me, I know you are tired. You are ticked. And you are exhausted. With all honesty, I too am running on empty. But if I know nothing else, I know with a 100 percent surety, that if you do nothing, nothing will change.
So friends, let’s dig down, dig way down deep into the pit of our stomachs, pull out that fire within us and fight to push ESAs across the finish line.
I don’t know what that fight looks like for you. That is as individual as each ESA child who’s hanging in limbo. I will, however, share what others are doing.
Several parents have suggested writing to all lawmakers, introducing individually each child to them and telling representatives why the ESA is important for that child. One parent commented that she has already received two replies. Folks, there are 8,000 applications. That potentially could mean 8,000 emails to lawmakers — taking little Isabella, Trent, Marissa, Madison and all the other children from being mere statistics to being real, living kids that legislators have to face.
So, if you want to make to your child real to lawmakers, or, if you just want to let them know your feelings and thoughts about the ESA program, you can find a directory of emails for state Senators here and the Assembly Members here.
If you don’t know already, you can find who your legislators are if you enter your address here. It will link you to your Nevada representatives.
Other parents are continuing to call and email Governor Sandoval. If you missed it previously, you, your family and your friends can share your thoughts with Governor Sandoval, by email at http://gov.nv.gov/Contact/Email-the-Governor/ or by phone at 775-684-5670.
Now, it’s all I can do to poke around Facebook. But, over the last week, I’ve learned a little about Twitter, hash-tagging, tweeting and retweeting. To be honest, the mechanics are way above my head. But, it appears it’s a great way to reach representatives. While I don’t know the twitter handles for each legislator, or even where to find them, I do know that hashtag #NVleg is a good place to find twitter handles and have your voice heard. I also know, you can find the Governor on Twitter at @GovSandoval. If you use #LetOurChildrenSucceed in your social media posts and tweets, I will probably be able to find it.
I don’t know much, but friends, there’s one final thing I have learned about social media: it’s far more effective to share and retweet something than it is to “like” it.
Before I close, I want to be sure to recognize Treasurer Dan Schwartz and his amazing team for all their dedication, hard work and continued efforts to get ESAs across the finish line. I also want to thank Attorney General Adam Laxalt, his fantabulous legal team and the Institute for Justice for fighting so diligently for Nevada’s children.
Be sure to reach out to them and give your appreciation.
Thank you for your indulgence.
By Daniel Honchariw
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has effectively transformed its More Cops fund into an interest-earning savings account.
This may explain, at least partially, why Metro for the last eight years has not spent the More Cops money it has received from taxpayers on actually hiring More Cops.
An October 2 Las Vegas Review-Journal article highlighted Metro P.D.’s massive, current More Cops account balance.
The article accurately stated that Metro maintains over $100 million in funds earmarked specifically for the hiring of more uniformed police officers — although one might not know it based on the department’s current lobbying for additional revenue streams for that precise purpose.
Since the fund’s 2005 inception, when Metro began receiving the marginal revenues from a .25-pt sales-tax increase (now .3-pt), it has accumulated far more funds than it has spent during each year since.
Just how much has Metro saved each year?
Enough to have earned upwards of $8 million in interest based on 2008’s unused balance alone!
Over time, these earnings add up — to approximately $27.6 million in accumulated interest through 2015.
The fund’s interest earnings over the last decade — based on the amount of funds Metro has saved each year — far exceed the $7.9 million in annual tax revenues the department recently requested to increase staffing levels along the resort corridor.
Interestingly, neither the More Cops fund’s existing balance nor the interest earned on those balances was mentioned during Metro P.D.’s recent plea for more tax revenues.
On September 15, sitting before the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, Sheriff Lombardo publicly projected that his proposed 0.1-pt increase to the sales tax would produce an additional 64 police officers to be stationed within the resort corridor.
The meeting’s official minutes document this projection as follows:
Commissioner Sisolak asks how much money the tax would produce to pay for officers within the Resort Corridor. Mr. Aguero responds the estimate is $7.9 million. Commissioner Sisolak asks how many additional officers the funding would add to the area. Sheriff Lombardo states his estimate is 64.
On its face, this estimate seems reasonable — each additional $1 million can fund about eight new hires at a per-officer price of $125,000 per year.
But if $7.9 million per year is what Metro needs to fund those 64 additional officers, nothing is preventing the department from hiring those officers today.
As noted in the same October 2 Las Vegas Review-Journal article, the fact that Metro is not hiring in the quantities of officers it claims to need has little to do with its underlying financials.
Alright, I know you are probably tired and wondering if what you see ahead is a mirage or what. Believe me, I’ve been there, too. But, after a lot of vacuuming, scrubbing, dusting and dishes — I tend to think and recharge when I clean — I put on my resolve to ignore the negative press and see ESAs cross the finish line. There are 8,000 Nevada kiddos clinging to the program. They cannot afford to spend one more day in an educational system that is failing their needs.
Yes, last week’s ESA win was truly a landmark decision, marking a pivotal change to the face of education in this country. It should be celebrated. It should be hailed for the groundbreaking moment that it is. And, NevadaESA.com is forging forward.
But, I admit, I just can’t forget the other, immediate side of the issue — the one where 8,000 Nevada children are still hanging in limbo. This is the side that keeps Nevada’s kiddos — and each of your families — near to my heart. And, I just can’t move beyond that. So, I’m not going to ramble on about how great last week’s ruling is for the country— or even Nevada. Instead, I am just going to say that while some fatigue at this point is natural, depressed energy can instead be directed outward, productively, and parents can carry this program over the finish line. NevadaESA.com is geared up and we’re pushing through that finish line — full speed.
As I said Friday, the funding issue is a legislative fix. After all, appropriations (funding) are what legislatures do. And, there is a possibility to get ESA funding this school year. Now, I’ll be honest, it’s not necessarily easy. It will take some work. It is not a guarantee. But, the possibility does exist.
The first thing which must happen is the Governor needs to put ESA funding on his agenda for the special session. Only the Governor can call for a special session, and he alone can set the agenda. It so happens that Governor Sandoval is currently trying to convene a special session for a Las Vegas stadium. If Sandoval places the ESA matter on the special session agenda, lawmakers will have an opportunity to fund the program now. Governor Sandoval has always been a champion of school choice. It is entirely possible — through Sandoval’s leadership — that ESAs for the 8,000 kids waiting could be funded this school year.
Treasurer Dan Schwartz, whose office administers the ESA program, has already called on Sandoval to include ESAs on a special session agenda. Various lawmakers have come forward publicly requesting ESA on the agenda. Parents across the state are calling to ask the same. At this point, it appears the Governor has not made his decision. But media reports say he’s seriously considering putting it on the special session agenda. So it appears the Governor is listening. That means your voice matters.
If you or your family and friends would like to share your thoughts with Governor Sandoval, you can email him by going to http://gov.nv.gov/Contact/Email-the-Governor/.
Or, you can call him at 775-684-5670. And, while I’m not a big social media person, I hear parents and community members have reached out to him on Twitter at @GovSandoval.
As I said, placing ESA on a special session agenda is no guarantee an appropriation will pass. Most certainly, it is up to lawmakers to introduce and pass a bill. Now, the great thing about our country is that elected officials welcome — even crave — constituent feedback on issues. Once upon a time, a lawmaker from Florida shared with me that she wished she had more input from her constituency. She explained that so often once lawmakers are elected, constituents rarely continue to provide input about how they feel on issues. Officials, she admitted, are then left with only the insight of special interests and lobbyists — that’s all they regularly see and hear. So, when an issue sparks a fire in the constituency, it has a powerful impact on the elected official. I will tell you, that little conversation has stuck with me and drives me to remember: my voice really does make a difference — I just have to express it.
You can contact your lawmakers to let them know you strongly support the ESA program and would like them to do so also. If you enter your address here, it will link you to your Nevada representatives. You will find a directory for state Senators here and the Assembly Members here. You can call and email them to let them know how you feel.
You may also want to contact the legislative leadership and let them know your thoughts.
- Sen. Majority Leader Michael Roberson, Michael.Roberson@sen.state.nv.us, 702-612-6929
- Assembly Speaker John Hambrick, John.Hambrick@asm.state.nv.us, 702-242-8580
- Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, Paul.Anderson@asm.state.nv.us, 702-410-6645
If ESA gets a place on the agenda, I’ll cover next how you can testify at the legislative hearing. Yes, children can testify at legislative hearings. They can also call Governors and legislators. After all, it is their very lives that hang in the balance.
Before I close out, one quick note. ESA applications closed at 5:00 p.m. on September 30 as scheduled. Applications are scheduled to re-open on November 1. So, don’t be surprised if the Treasurer’s website has removed the application. It is standard practice.