Monday, April 25, 2011

State legislature debates higher ed funding

Last Friday, the Senate and the Assembly both met as Committees of the Whole to hear detailed presentations on the NSHE budgets. Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich proposed a compromise alternative budget solution, which would restore roughly one-third of the $162 million in state investment that Governor Sandoval has proposed to cut from higher education -- combined with shared sacrifice by students whose fees would be increased 13% each year of the coming biennium and by faculty and staff, whose 5% salary cuts, benefit cuts and program eliminations (ie layoffs) would, under this proposal, reduce state operating expenses for higher education by an amount equal to the student fee increases. Read the Chancellor's remarks here.

He received vocal support on Friday from business leaders, including former Harrah's CEO and Business Advisory Council chair Phil Satre, and from members of the Las Vegas and Henderson Chambers of Commerce. But those lawmakers who back the Governor's proposal to cut higher education by another $162 million remained fixed in their commitment to the boom-and-bust policies of the past.

Read coverage of the day's events in today's daily bulletin.

Tonight, Monday April 25, the Senate Committee of the Whole met again to discuss both the K-12 and higher education budgets. Sondra Cosgrove reports on tonights' debate:

Majority Leader Horsford asked Senators to not only state whether they would support the Governor's recommended budget cuts to education, but to also go on record as supporting the effects of those cuts.

Instead of just asking which Senators supported block grants for local school districts, Senator Horsford asked which Senators supported forcing local school districts to decide which programs to keep and which to eliminate due to reduced funding. Senator Horsford didn't just ask which Senators supported cutting funding to higher education, but which Senators supported laying off faculty, cutting classes and programs, and possibly closing sites and centers. At one point Senator Horsford asked why pay and benefit cuts for public employees is acceptable, but tax increases are not. Senator Kieckhefer stated that money lost due to pay or benefit cuts is not the same as money lost due to a tax being continued or raised. Senator Horsford strongly disagreed.

Republican Senators stated they wanted to see education reforms and that the only way to get those reforms is to reduce funding. They stated that reduced funding would cause K-12 to fund and retain only the best programs and teachers and would cause higher ed to get rid of non-productive faculty, programs, and campuses/sites. It was very evident that Republican Senators believe that Nevada's education system can function, and even function better, with much less funding than is currently being provided.

Democratic Senators argued that Nevada has never funded education adequately and so to assume that all problems with the education systems are due to mismanagement and inefficient use of resources is not logical. They did not deny that reforms will be needed, but that starving the education systems is not the best way to achieve reforms. Senator Horsford repeatedly stressed that Democrats are not asking for extra funding, just to not reduce funding below the 2009 ed budget levels.

If you would like to express your views, you can call: 1-800-995-9080. Or fax the Nevada Senate--775-684-6522, Assembly--1-775-684-8533, or send a toll free fax--1-866-543-9941.

You can contact any of the legislators by locating email addresses at:



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