NPRI is thrilled to offer our fourth annual Professor R.S. Nigam & NPRI Freedom Scholarship and excited to once again put a smile on the face of a deserving student. The scholarship is made possible through the generous donation of long-time NPRI member Swadeep Nigam in honor of his father, Professor R.S. Nigam.
The teachers union is seeking to reduce economic growth at one of the worst possible times — when tens of thousands of Nevadans are underemployed or unemployed and struggling to support their families. While the numbers of projected job and business loss speak for themselves, the personal stories of those who will be impacted by the margin tax are also important to tell.
When you work in the think-tank world, where days are consumed with analyzing policy, keeping tabs on the government and promoting transparency, encounters with 16, 17 and 18 year olds can be rare.
It’s not that we don’t want teens to spend their Friday and Saturday nights reading about outrageous and out-of-control government spending in our Piglet Book, or about our efforts to combat the state’s disregard for its own constitution, or our solutions to Nevada’s economic and educational challenges. We know those things are of value to everyone, whether they be 18 or 80.
But the reality is that high school seniors, particularly this time of year, have a lot of other things to worry about — like getting into college and finding a way to pay for it. For the past three years, we’ve been fortunate enough to help make the latter task a little easier for students in Clark County by offering The Professor R.S. Nigam & NPRI Freedom Scholarship.
Just days after it was filed, NPRI’s lawsuit against the Governor’s Office of Economic Development is already making a difference. The City of Reno decided to hold off on awarding state money to a private company upon learning of the suit, which alleges the Nevada Catalyst Fund is unconstitutional.
In 2011, under the guise of “economic development,” state lawmakers created the Catalyst Fund, administered by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, to provide up to $10 million in state tax dollars to private businesses. In response, NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation has just filed a lawsuit charging that the Catalyst Fund violates Article 8, Sections 9 and 10 of the state constitution.
This was a big week for NPRI.
On Wednesday, our Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation challenged the constitutionality of the state government’s efforts to pick winners and losers in the economy through the Catalyst Fund.
Most of the media coverage since we filed the case — and there’s been plenty of it over the past two days — has rightly focused on the relevant legal issue: The Nevada Constitution expressly prohibits the state from giving money to private companies, and that is what the Governor’s Office of Economic Development is doing through the Catalyst Fund.
That constitutional issue is at the heart of this lawsuit, along with the basic unjustness of making a business subsidize its competition, and I urge you to read Joseph Becker’s detailed explanation of those issues here.
But today, I’d like to discuss another angle to this story, and to dive into the economic problems inherent to the Catalyst Fund’s existence.
In case you didn’t notice — and if you didn’t, you’re probably in trouble — today is Valentine’s Day.
And while the team here nixed my idea of raffling off dates with single staff members, I wanted to make sure NPRI gave you a Valentine’s Day present. And since we’re the generous sort, we decided to give it to the whole state and to provide it a day early.
Yes, I’m referring to our release yesterday of Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System payouts, searchable by name, at TransparentNevada.
The Congressional Budget Office released a report this week showing that millions of full-time workers will chose to leave their jobs as a result of Obamacare. As is the case with government expansion, Obamacare incentivizes people to not work.
Promoting transparency in government has long been at the core of NPRI’s efforts.
Not only do we citizens have a right to know how our government operates and how it spends our money, but that information is essential to making wise judgments in public policy.
That was our thinking behind launching TransparentNevada six years ago: Let the public see how government is spending money and how much public employees are making, and trust that once they knew the facts, citizens would demand better policies
Even though I was there when we launched the site, I never could have predicted how TransparentNevada would transform the debate on public-employee compensation in Nevada. From exposing overtime abuses in the Clark County fire department, to being a resource used by elected officials and media members across the state, to hearing union officials cite TransparentNevada as proof that school administrators are overpaid, TransparentNevada has changed the public’s perception of government-employee compensation.
Last year, TransparentNevada earned more than 1.98 million page views. That’s pretty amazing for a site with no paid advertising in a state of just 2.7 million residents.
This stunning success got us thinking about other states that could benefit from a similar website. And there’s no state more in need of increased public understanding of the problems of big government than our neighbor to the west.
I am pleased to let you know that today, NPRI — working with the California Public Policy Center, a California-based free-market think tank — has launched TransparentCalifornia.
This week, the Nevada Department of Education gave itself a big pat on the back as it released Nevada’s 2013 graduation rates.
Taken at face value, the self-praise might seem deserved — the state’s graduation rate jumped from 63 percent in 2012 to just over 70 percent in 2013.
But a closer look reveals that the state’s education officials have merely improved their own accounting skills and done little to advance student success. Prior to 2012, Nevada school districts counted students who transferred out of a district as dropouts. Now, students who move during high school are removed entirely from the graduation equation, thereby upping the perceived performance of state schools.
Even with the modest gains in the number of graduates last year, Nevada still lags behind the national average, and our children are paying the price.
No matter how you want to count graduates, we can all agree that Nevada’s schools are broken and that there’s plenty of room for improvement. While the Nevada Department of Education was busy adjusting its formula to make its failing schools look a little better, we at NPRI have been highlighting real solutions — those that actually increase the number of students graduating, not just improve our ability to count them.