First came last week’s Barbwire seriously questioning the accuracy of departing Washoe County School Superintendent Heath Morrison’s miraculous graduation rates. (No official response yet). Then arrived word of the dwindling of the program designed to keep our best and brightest high school grads staying home for college.
I was among the critics of Gov. Dudley Do-Right’s Millennium Scholarship Program when he proposed it to the Legislature in his first State of the State address in 1999. I was present on the floor of the Assembly chamber when he made the proposal in lieu of a hotly rumored inclusion of major tax reform. His advisors, led by Chief of Staff Peter “Snidely Whiplash” Ernaut, got him to back off any tax discussion until his second term.
The program was funded by national tobacco settlement funds intended to reimburse states for billions expended fighting drug addiction caused by Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man.
A few years later, I changed my tune. A UNR professor told me that the late Gov. Guinn’s program made a real difference to his students. Many more were able to get a real college education with more time for learning rather than rushing out of class for burger-flipping jobs.
Now comes the bad news that “77 percent of eligible students used their scholarships in 2000, but in 2011, with college costs much higher, the rate dropped to 51 percent,” according to the Associated Press.
“Today, the funds pay only $1,920, or 29 percent of the $6,954 annual tuition and other fees,” AP reported.
Zounds. Had I been confronted with those kinds of costs, I never could have gone to college. When I attended Fresno State back in the ancient sixties, it boasted three world-class departments (agriculture, chemistry and music) and a future poet laureate of the United States — my greatest teacher, Philip Levine.
It was affordable, under a hundred bucks a semester plus books, as I vaguely recall. That was before the coming of Gov. Ronald Reagan who in 1967 began turning the greatest educational system in the history of the world into something rather average.
Providing election year cover for conservative moonhowlers, current Nevada Gov. El Brúte Obtúse recently announced that he would make no more cuts to education in the 2013 legislative session. As if he has such power.
Then legislative Democrats surrendered without firing a shot. They agreed with likely new Senate Republican leader Bullfrog Roberson, R-12th Century, that only “revenue neutral” changes to the tax code will be considered. Translation: Mining and gambling get their taxes cut while yours and mine get raised.
The only hope for future education budgets lies with the Nevada State AFL-CIO petition for a broad-based business tax, something not even the flaccid teachers’ union will back. That’s OK. Latest count shows 154,000 union members in Nevada plus tens of thousands of family members and retirees.
Labor has stood alone before and won. Why should it be any different now?
Morrison deflation blowback
It’s gonna get worse. Several readers told me of many Washoe County School District insiders biting their tongues, worried that any negative comment might keep Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC, from hiring Heath Morrison away.
I was especially touched by a hard-working school district official, heartbroken that Morrison’s skyrocketing graduation stats might be a result of cooking the books.
One longtime former reporter wrote “Wow. This is good, solid journalism. I’m amazed because the community as a whole has been deprived of that practice for much too long. Thanks.”
Such encouragement makes worthwhile the bitter job of disappointing the good-hearted.
The real Labor Day
The U.S. is unique in celebrating Labor Day in September when the rest of the world does so on May Day. Way back when, public officials were scared to be associated with them damn socialists. Nothing’s changed.
May 1 falls on Tuesday this year, so local laborites will hold a rally on Saturday, which happens to be Cinco de Mayo. A worker demonstration starts at 11 a.m. in front of Reno City Hall, not to be confused by the commercial event on the Grand Sierra parking lot.
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Rail City rantings and railings
According to last Monday’s “Sparks City Council Highlights,” Hizzoner and the council issued a proclamation declaring April 23 as “Fred Horlacher History Day.” Mr. Horlacher, a 35-year classroom veteran and former Nevada Teacher of the Year, “recently held a lecture series as a successful fund-raising venture for the Sparks Heritage Museum.”
Years ago, the distinguished educator testified in front of a legislative committee that because of his low salary, he could not qualify for a car loan after his auto was totaled in an accident. Now, the entire Nevada education system is being totaled and modern-day Horlachers still suffer despite doing a helluva job under very trying circumstances.
City of Sparks info guy Adam Mayberry also included this from the council meeting: “New Municipal Code to address properties that are a nuisance.”
Wonder if that includes the Tribune?
God, I hope so.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 43-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org, and first vice-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. E-mail email@example.com.