The Nevada State Lemon Association

By Steven Miller
  • Monday, March 15, 2004

Say you bought a car, and it turned out to be a lemon. Despite your fondest hopes, and no matter how many times you took it back to the car company, the company just couldn’t—or wouldn’t—fix it.

The car always let you down.

It never took you where you wanted to go.

Eventually, needing real transportation, you’d ask for your money back.

And if the car company tried to keep your money, you’d take them to court.

One thing you can be sure of: The court would not order you to subsidize that car’s manufacturer until the company finally learns how — or decides to — produce a better car.

The court would simply order the car company to return your money (and perhaps pay damages).

That’s the difference between private, market-based services and Nevada’s government school system. In the private sector, producers of shoddy products go bankrupt, since customers don’t like being defrauded.

In Nevada’s government-run school sector, however, continuing failure becomes the reason parents and taxpayers must be compelled to provide even bigger subsidies!

Every year over the last four decades, Silver State schools have been revealed as ever-more consummate failures — by virtually every measure of educational progress. Yet the very idea that parents and taxpayers might get their money back — to spend in the booming, competitive market for genuine educational services—always gets a quick and violent death in the dark corners of the Nevada Assembly.

Those corners, of course, are where Nevada’s government unions — foremost among them the Nevada State Education Association teacher union — still wield their immense, if unconstitutional, power.

For years in the Silver State that power has effectively translated into a lemon law in reverse:  You say the product coming out of the state’s NSEA-dominated schools is a rank and utter failure? Well then — proclaims the puddinghead consensus — taxpayers must be compelled to simply “INvest” more!

However, this day may finally be approaching its end. The teacher union’s ever-recurring dog-and-pony show has now become so predictable, so old and decrepit, that it’s an open question whether it will work in Nevada again. Today the National Education Association (NEA), of which the NSEA is just the state face, has credibility only with the naïve. These are people who’ve never noticed that ever since the 1960s, when it abandoned professionalism to become a labor union, the NEA has lived for nothing other than ever-higher taxes on taxpayers, ever-more radical leftist causes and ever-greater political power for itself. Children? Genuine learning? Puh-lease.

Consider what we’re witnessing now. The union’s current rationale for the dollar sign worn permanently over its heart is that “the state ought to fund K-12 education at the national average.” But there is no authentic national average, as no common standard controls what states or localities report as education funding. Fast-growing Nevada, for example, has long been atop the list of states for capital spending on schools, but those billions don’t get reported in the per-pupil-spending numbers that the teacher union loves to flog. Also left out of the NSEA’s disingenuous reckoning is Nevada’s lower-than-average cost of living. But ignoring our actual circumstances would be the very definition of insanity.

As always, the union is attempting to push Nevada onto a never-ending escalator — since the NEA always runs campaigns everywhere for higher taxes. All that changes is the current rationale selected by the union for a given locale.

Four years ago in Nevada, the NSEA’s rationale for higher taxes was a claim that Nevada’s teacher salaries were “lower than average.” Then the American Federation of Teachers embarrassed the NSEA by admitting in a national report that Nevada teachers — in view of the state’s relatively low taxes and lush benefit packages — were some of the best paid in the nation!

Three years ago the NSEA sought to justify higher taxes with claims that beginning teacher salaries were “too low.” Up to 20 percent of new hires leave Las Vegas schools by their third year of employment, wailed the union bosses. They didn’t mention those were good numbers, since nationally, 32.6 percent leave teaching within three years. A big reason: idealistic young teachers find union-run schools repellant.

Then, in recent years, the NSEA claimed a “structural deficit” required big new taxes on Nevadans. False conceptually, the allegation is also being disproved by current state tax revenues.

For far too long Nevada’s kids have been sacrificed to the NSEA’s greed for money and power.

This union is a lemon. Nevada needs to get its money back.

Steven Miller is policy director of the Nevada Policy Research Institute

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