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You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Budget

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

“Jaws” (1975)

When police chief Martin Brody [Roy Scheider] witnessed the surfacing of the now infamous man-eating 25 ft. great white shark next to Quint’s fishing vessel, he warned the grizzled captain, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

And when Gov. Brian Sandoval saw that Nevada’s high school graduation rate is “the worst in the nation; that Nevada students rank near the bottom in math achievement; and less than a third of fourth graders are proficient on national reading tests,” he told state lawmakers, “Nevada needs a bigger education budget.”

While it’s true that a bigger boat is not what ultimately did Jaws in, the situation did require a boatload of courage and ingenuity—in the person of Martin Brody—to get rid of the underwater menace that was threatening the good folks of Amity Island. The handsome local law enforcement officer came up with the idea of jamming a scuba tank down the shark’s throat, using his sharp-shooting skills and a nearby carbine to finish the job.

Nevada’s governor, politically perched on the bow of Nevada’s ship of state, is also searching desperately for a solution to our education woes.

Sandoval, like many a chief executive before him, has looked for Silver State solutions that will save Nevada’s schools from the ravages of mediocrity. The Governor is proposing a bigger commitment to reforms, accountability, and yes, funding, as a key to “modernizing an obsolete and antiquated” school system.

No single silver bullet is capable of exploding all that ails our education system, but you’ve got to try something if you are the police chief — or the governor. And so our state’s highest official has asked Nevada school officials, lawmakers, businesses, and yes, taxpayers, to end the scourge of under-performing schools.

So where does that put us, as Nevada lawmakers, as we begin the 78th Legislative Session?

The Governor has served up a bucketful—or, to switch metaphors—a volley of reforms and funding proposals. The ball is now in legislators’ court. Both Republicans and Democrats are staring at a serious marker laid down by the Governor.

For Republicans, the question is:  “Do we care enough about the education reforms for which we routinely advocate to adequately fund them?” Reforms like school choice programs, expansion of charter schools, new classroom technology, and performance pay for teachers all require greater funding commitments.

For Democrats, the question is:  “Do you care enough about significant funding increases for ELL, Zoom Schools, all-day kindergarten and capital projects to accept Republican agenda items in the form of school reforms?”

In the real world of legislative politics, new reforms go hand-in-hand with new revenues. Both come at a price. Republicans, and our friends in the private sector, will have to pony up. Democrats, and your friends in the public unions, will also have to give. The alternative—if both sides dig in and resist change—is gridlock.

D.C. has plenty of it, and the public is none too happy. If lawmakers want Nevadans to conclude that Carson City is no different than Washington D.C., then we should hunker down in our respective ships while the shark of partisanship devours the opportunities all around us.

Nevada stands at the threshold of a new 21st century economy. High tech manufacturing businesses like Tesla, and data giants like Switch, are waiting to employ our children and grandchildren. Will we have them career and workforce-ready? Do we have the courage and ingenuity to make tough decisions and do politically hard things?

I hope so. And so do the majority of Nevadans.

(There is no truth to the rumor that… every one of my “daily observations” will be this serious. After all, there is a “raucous caucus” on which to reflect and shenanigans yet to be seen.

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