Monday, April 26, 2010

NFA PAC endorses Rory Reid for Governor

This statement was released to the press this afternoon. An article on the endorsement appeared this afternoon on the Las Vegas Sun website.

The Nevada Faculty Alliance Political Action Committee today announced its endorsement of Rory Reid for Governor. The announcement followed a unanimous vote by the statewide PAC’s 16-member board, composed of faculty drawn from all eight institutions of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

“We were impressed with Rory and his commitment to developing a coherent strategy to strengthen higher education in our state,” said Scott Huber, NFA president and a biology professor at Truckee Meadows Community College. “In the last three years, there’s really only been a debate about how much to cut, not any vision about what we as a state need.”

“The current approach of death by a thousand cuts has not solved the state’s problems,” added NFA vice-president and PAC co-chair Gregory Brown, a history professor at UNLV. “As faculty, we are excited that Rory Reid’s plan for economic renewal is based upon education and innovation, because faculty provide the innovative research and high-quality classroom teaching that Nevada’s citizens need for the 21st Century.”

Glenn Miller, NFA PAC co-chair and an environmental studies professor at UNR, explained that in Reid, the NFA saw a candidate who clearly understands the problem and would govern by seeking practical solutions. “NFA has a tradition of supporting candidates who are interested in a bi-partisan practical approach, rather than carrying the political agenda of any specific ideology or interest group,” said Miller. “Rory showed us a deep interest in the details of higher education policy, and this focus will be a welcome change to the governor’s office.”

(The board based its decision on responses to questionnaires sent to all major party candidates; Reid provided detailed responses, from which excerpts are posted below. Several other candidates did not respond.)


What priorities do you intend to pursue as Governor that will impact higher education in Nevada?

Education and economic development

When I announced my candidacy for governor, I released a 30-page plan, The Virtual Crossroads, that proposes a new vision for Nevada that fulfills our potential. It is a new approach to economic development that captures the full potential of the state and its resources, while providing leadership that has been sorely lacking in Carson City.

The Virtual Crossroads is an economic plan intertwined with an education plan. I firmly believe that improving our education system, from kindergarten through graduate school, will improve our economy.

For example, my plan calls for Nevada to invest in the transportation, shipping and logistics industries to produce high-wage, high-growth jobs. Nevada should be a regional center for logistics and the trans-shipment of goods – a leading growth sector in the new global economy. Our universities and colleges must provide classroom study and hands-on training in distribution, manufacturing, warehousing, purchasing and marketing. This industry could be a boon for Nevada – and we need to invest in further research and training.

Renewable energy development and investment in the green workforce of the future is another area where I believe Nevada could excel. Currently the Desert Research Institute houses a renewable energy center specializing in helping companies test and improve new energy technologies, and UNLV's Center for Energy Research has likewise partnered with the private sector on such practical applications as zero energy homes. I recently had an opportunity to tour facilities at Truckee Meadows Community College and University of Nevada, Reno, where they are training renewable technology technicians who will be key to residential and professional level energy systems.

We need to further expand partnerships with community colleges, vocational-technical schools and high schools – as well as private business and our labor community – to develop our green workforce. And at the same time our universities must become leading centers for technology development and transfer to fuel the industries of the future.

These are just a few examples of how investing in higher education can improve our economy. Strong schools are the key to a stronger economy. We need to attract dynamic new businesses to Nevada – but they won't come if we don't have good schools for their children and a higher education system that trains the workforce they need for 21st Century jobs, and provides a fertile ground for intellectual capital and technology transfer.

I also understand the importance of mission differentiation among institutions and why having healthy capacity available at all levels and for all needs – from vocational and technical training to advanced postgraduate research - is critical to the future of our state.

Partnership, not competition

I believe that there are many more opportunities to be explored for partnership between Nevada's K-12 public education system and the system of higher education, and that the two areas should be aligned - not be set up as competitors for funding as they have been in the past. By realizing efficiencies and improving quality of teaching at the K-12 level, we can save both resources and time currently devoted to remediation when inadequately prepared students come to our universities and colleges.

An advocate for higher education

Education will be the centerpiece of my campaign and my highest priority as Governor. I released my plan for K-12 education in March and am in the process of developing a higher education plan for release later in the campaign.

I believe that the governor should be an advocate for the state's higher education system and work closely with the Board of Regents to ensure its goals are met – including removing obstacles such as obsolete legislation, and revisiting funding formulas for the changing demographics and needs of our universities, state colleges and community colleges.

Just as my K-12 education reform plan focuses on large part in increasing flexibility and streamlining bureaucracy, I would support increased flexibility for NSHE institutions, such as localizing capital project management so it is no longer under the auspices of the State Public Works Board – a highly inefficient process. I also believe that increased accountability at the institutional level is key to making this work – in order to create transparency, and document the value received by the state for the tax dollars provided.

And finally, in addition to the economic imperative, I believe that the availability of a well-reputed, affordable system of higher education which involves and engages Nevada residents is key to our quality of life – for our intellectual life and the cultural richness of our communities.

The 2009 state budget filled a significant budgetary hole through use of federal stimulus dollars, short-term increases in sales taxes and other fees, and long-term cuts in state operations. For the 2011 budget and beyond, what priorities will you propose for the state budget? Do you believe that current levels of state revenue are adequate to sustain the level of services that the state needs, including higher education, for the long term?

My number one priority is and will be investing in an innovative education system that responds to the needs of Nevada families and businesses, and enhances their ability to fully participate in the new, sustainable economy we must grow in Nevada. We also must ensure our network of social services adequately protects our most vulnerable citizens – our children and seniors. And we need to make strategic investments in our infrastructure and services to attract the new kinds of businesses we will need to rebuild Nevada’s economy.

The state will face a significant revenue shortfall for the 2011-2013 biennium - that is a given. I want to look closely at the findings of the current interim tax and revenue study called for in Senate Concurrent Resolution 37 of the 2009 legislative session. The consultant hired for the interim study, Moody’s Analytics, is examining the kind of revenue structure Nevada will need as it goes forward with new directions in its economy. I support that approach and will give strong consideration to the Moody’s findings and recommendations, as I prepare an executive budget to submit to the 2011 Legislature. My goal is to put forward a budget that meets our immediate needs, while laying the foundation for a new, more robust economy that provides us with the revenue stream to meet vital state needs, with K-12 and higher education first and foremost.

In the 2009 legislature, state General Fund funding for higher education was cut by 24% from 2007 level. (The 2007 level itself was only 86% of what the state’s formula calculated to be the System's required level of funding.) In the 2010 special session, Higher Ed funding was cut by another 6.9%. As Governor, would you take these recent budgets into account when considering funding for Higher Education in the 2011 budget and beyond?

Yes. As I have stated, education is my top priority because it is the key to revitalizing our economy. And I can certainly understand your concerns in this area, since all other candidates for governor have proposed only more cuts to education. Governor Gibbons and his primary challenger, Brian Sandoval, have looked to higher education as a source of additional cuts. The governor in his 2009-2011 executive budget proposed to cut higher education by 36 percent. Before the 2010 special session, Sandoval released a “Short Term Deficit Plan” that included a 4 percent salary reduction for all state employees, stating that, “The short-term proposals account for more than $500 million in savings. If the budget hole grows beyond that amount, salary reductions will need to be greater than those proposed here. “

Sandoval’s plan did not address another $282 million in the ultimate budget shortfall that would need to be made up through greater salary savings, under his plan. Every 1 percent reduction in the salaries of state employees, K-12 employees and Nevada System of Higher Education employees yields $37.1 million in salary savings. A further reduction of $282 million would have resulted in another 7.6 percent in across-the-board cuts for state, K-12 and NSHE employees, for a total pay reduction of 11.6 percent.

My opponents have their education plans – to cut, cut, cut. That tells us something very important: Candidates who run on cutting education aren’t committed to our students, don’t understand what’s best for Nevada’s economy, and will never have the courage to fundamentally change our schools.

I will protect education funds as my top priority as governor because I believe that improving our education system will improve our economy and our quality of life.

In the 2009 legislature, all state public service workers were required to take unpaid furlough days or increased workload equivalent to a 4.6 % salary cut. Do you support limiting any additional pay cuts or furloughs for NSHE faculty and staff until other budgetary solutions have been pursued?

As I have said above, I will work to protect education funds as my top priority – and that includes protecting faculty salaries. I recognize that our higher education system has taken an enormous budgetary hit, that morale on campuses is clearly affected and that we cannot recruit and retain top talent unless we offer competitive salaries. I also recognize that an increasing number of faculty are working on a part-time level instead of full-time. We need to recognize that faculty members must be allowed to practice their craft – including research and service as well as teaching. Attracting and retaining top-tier faculty will pay dividends to the state by not only building our intellectual infrastructure, but also increasing our capacity for innovative research that will be central to our future economy.

In researching my economic plan, I found many examples where state governments have actively engaged as a partner in faculty recruitment for exactly these reasons. For example, the state of Kentucky started a great program where endowed chairs were established specifically to recruit world-class researchers into the state. They called it “Bucks for Brains” – a great concept, and something we could certainly look at as an idea for Nevada. The recent plan in Florida to increase funding for higher education over time for the long-term economic benefit of the state is another good example to examine.

We must find creative ways to invest in higher education and help our universities be centers of new ideas and research in areas where Nevada can lead.

For all these reasons, I will look for other austerities in state government – and ways to diversify our economy to improve our revenues – as alternatives to asking state employees and NSHE faculty and staff for more sacrifices. We cannot recruit and retain the best talent by continually cutting pay and benefits for public employees.

In the current biennium, NSHE student fees were increased by 10% per year to help cover the budget deficit. All of this new fee money is being put directly into campus programs for this biennium rather than having a significant portion reverting to the General Fund, as has been the case in the past. Would you support this principle in the future, through a revision of the the legislative "Letter of Intent," to allow any future increases in NSHE student fees to support directly those students' academic success, by allowing institutions to retain those fees for programs on that campus, rather than reverting to the General Fund? Also, all fees from out of state students currently revert to the State General fund. Would you support a policy that allows those fees to be retained by NSHE institutions?

Yes, I would fully support further revision of the legislative LOI (in addition to changes made during the special session) and other policies aimed at keeping NSHE fees on our campuses. In my plan for K-12 education, I proposed turning every Nevada school into an “EDGE school,” giving principals, teachers and parents the ability to shape the kind of educational experience children in those schools receive – and improve educational quality through innovation at the individual school level. I believe the same principle should apply to higher education, which is why I favor allowing financial resources to remain within the campuses that generate them.

I would also support a policy change allowing fees from out-of-state students to benefit those institutions that generate them, as part of this strategy for making our institutions of higher education self-sustaining and self-determined.

And recognizing that registration fees have gone up nearly 50% for undergraduates and nearly 60% for graduate students over the last biennium, I also think it would be worthwhile to take a look at allocating some of the fee increases to student financial aid, in order to help address the issue of access.

In addition, I would be supportive of exploring the idea of differentiated tuition per program, recognizing that some programs cost more per student to operate due to equipment, space, laboratory work and other considerations. The idea that popular programs critical to our state’s economy – such as nursing and engineering – are being contemplated for cuts or elimination is unconscionable. I believe that our universities and colleges should be able to implement a fee structure that makes sense to keep our programs competitive and sustainable.

The System is currently undertaking an internal review of funding formulas for determining funding levels of its institutions. What issues do you anticipate should be addressed in any revision of the formula?

There are two considerations here. One is to make sure there is equity in funding among the universities and colleges in the NSHE system based on mission differences. Funding formulas should take into consideration differences in enrollment growth, so that fast-growing institutions such as the Community College of Southern Nevada are adequately funded to meet the needs of the many young and older adults who are returning to school to gain the skills they need to compete in the new workforce we will need to grow our economy. Second, within the institutions themselves, we need to look at the levels of funding for programs that dovetail with our state’s economic development goals.

Higher education should be a partner with the rest of state government in supporting research and technology transfer, strategic business incubation and quality graduates – all of which can help us improve our economy in Nevada. As governor, I would work with the Board of Regents, the Chancellor’s office and the Nevada Faculty Alliance to best determine the resources needed, and where we should place them, to make this a reality. This may involve a different type of fee and tuition system than is currently in place – and I would be open to examining all possibilities.

Would you support dedicated funding for the Millennium Scholarship program for all qualifying students, to replenish the reserves for this program which were nearly depleted in the 2010 special session?

Yes, I would. But I also believe we may need to make some changes to the Millennium Scholarship program to extend its life – and give more Nevada high school students the chance for a college education they might not otherwise have.

Currently, it is my understanding that based on the level of funding left in the trust fund, and the rate at which it will be spent on new scholarship recipients, funding may run out as soon as FY 2013. As governor, I would work with the Board of Regents and NSHE to determine which changes could reasonably be made in eligibility requirements and continuing requirements for Millennium Scholarship recipients to make sure we are reaching students committed to a college education. I would also work with the Nevada Legislature on appropriating the necessary funds to the Millennium Trust Fund to extend the scholarship program to deserving students now entering high school.

At some point, because the Millennium program is finite, we also need to begin looking at formation of a state-sponsored scholarship endowment fund that attracts private funding for scholarships to students with the most promise whose parents can’t afford to send them to UNLV or UNR.

Since the 1980s, all Nevada Governors have agreed to confer with the NFA prior to drafting the state budget in legislative years, by receiving a delegation of members in the fall or winter of preceding years. Would you as Governor continue this practice?

Absolutely. I have experience in bring a variety of stakeholders to the table to address budget needs, and have found that collaborative processes are the most effective way to address difficult issues.

For the past seven years, I have had the honor of serving on the Clark County Commission, which is one of the largest and most complex counties in the nation, serving more than 2 million residents and more than 40 million visitors each year. Clark County covers more than 8,000 square miles, providing social services, overseeing businesses in the region – including the Las Vegas Strip, and managing the nation’s fifth busiest airport - with a budget larger than the State of Nevada’s entire general fund.

This year, as we looked at creating further efficiencies in the Clark County budget due to the continuing economic downturn, I convened a working group of business leaders and citizens to help the County Commission set priorities in county spending. I would continue that collaborative approach as governor, and certainly the NFA would be one of the groups I would call upon for expert counsel.

Tell us about your campaign plan and how an NFA endorsement could benefit your campaign?

I am running for governor because I believe that Nevada needs a fundamental change in direction to realize its potential, compete in the 21st Century economy, and provide a high quality of life for all residents – present and future.

For too long our state has suffered without leadership, and with no discernable plan for the future – not for economic diversification, not for jobs, and certainly not for education. And we can no longer survive, let alone thrive, with an economy solely dependent on the volatile fortunes of the tourism industry.

As I have previously stated, I believe that education is critical to building the economy of the future. To be competitive – and to lead – in tomorrow’s industries, we need to invest in workforce development, research and a quality of life that will attract business to Nevada, and keep our best and brightest minds in the state.

Often times the direst of circumstances can bring about the greatest opportunities for change. I believe that Nevada is truly at a crossroads, where we can choose more of the same and watch our state continue to decline, or we can seize upon the opportunity to decide what kind of state we want to be, and take real steps forward in making it happen.

We have neglected – and even eroded – education at every level for far too long. As a state we point to pockets of success, like incremental improvements in testing or small changes in program rankings – only to have them eclipsed or obliterated by budget cuts and a lack of long-term vision. Our system of higher education deserves better. And our economy will not improve if we fail to address our schools, colleges and universities.

As governor, education will be my top priority. And I promise you that when it comes to education, I will not compromise.

My campaign plan is built around real ideas, calling upon experts in Nevada and around the country, and citing proven successes and lessons from other states that might be adapted and applied successfully here. I started this campaign with an economic vision, The Virtual Crossroads. I have also addressed ethics and transparency in government as key to rebuilding trust in state government.

My K-12 education plan – The Leading EDGE – calls for a complete change in the way we approach our public schools, from the top of state government to every student desk. I believe that the time for incremental change has passed, and that in order to take our schools from some of the worst in the nation to some of the best, we need to put more freedom and responsibility in the hands of teachers and principals.

I believe you should take these examples as evidence of the type of campaign I intend to run. It is a campaign about building a better future – giving our children a reason to stay in Nevada and businesses a reason to invest here. And it’s about concrete plans to get there. It’s not about slogans, rhetoric or ideology.

I believe that we are all partners in envisioning and building the Nevada we would like to see. As educators and as leaders, the members of the Nevada Faculty Alliance are a critical piece of that partnership.

It was asked in this questionnaire whether as governor I would work with the NFA delegation during the legislative cycle. I don’t want to wait that long to make Nevada’s committed faculty a part of our transition to a new economy. And while I will of course actively seek faculty input into my higher education plan, I would also hope to draw upon academic expertise for a whole variety of issues impacting our economy and our shared quality of life.

I would be honored to earn the endorsement of the Nevada Faculty Alliance, and to engage your members in the dialogue about our state’s future today.

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