“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
—Thomas Paine (1776)
The words of the beloved journalist and Founding Father in the Revolutionary War pamphlet The American Crisis were so popular that as a percentage of the population, they were read by (or read to) more people than today watch the Super Bowl (or a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight)!
Paine wrote of the fierce desire for independence from the British Crown by the early American colonists. He thanked (and inspired) those brave men and women who didn’t “shrink from the service of their country” and who fostered a change of governance over which the world continues to marvel.
Similar resolve is needed from we, the duly-elected men and women of the Nevada Legislature. We must not shrink from our duty to our fellow Nevadans, and we must meet our June 2nd deadline for closing budgets.
The question before us is this:
What will history say about the 78th Session of the Nevada Legislature?
Will we be remembered for bold decisions made for the betterment of the state’s floundering education system? Will we embrace initiatives that equate to freedom from the chains of educational mediocrity including School Choice, Charter School expansion, and Opportunity Scholarships?
If so, it will take a certain amount of the same kind of revolutionary fervor led early Americans to shape a society that later became the model of a great success story. Along with their Lives and their Sacred Honor, the Founders also pledged their Fortunes. Revolutionary reforms didn’t come without a price tag in Philadelphia—neither will they, here, in Nevada.
As evidenced in Friday’s Economic Forum report to the Legislature, incentives that lead to economic growth come with a cost. So do some of the measures needed to transform our educational system. Tax credits to Tesla and film companies create a dent in the state budget — as do “Opportunity (school choice) Scholarships” (which give tax incentives to businesses that support school reforms, which most conservatives support).
Many of Governor Brian Sandoval’s “Education Initiatives for the New Nevada” — including Full Day Kindergarten, Read by Grade Three, Expansion of Zoom Schools, Funds for Gifted and Talented Students, Technology Grants, Career & Technical, Jobs for America’s Graduates, Charter School Expansion, and Opportunity Scholarships — cost money. They are a big part of the math that adds up to the additional $400 million the Governor has requested for the state budget.
If Nevada is serious about getting itself out of the education basement, we are going to have to put our money where our mouth is. Education reforms require budgetary enhancements.
It’s bottom-line time for Nevada. There’s no need to distribute revolutionary pamphlets. Google and iPhone calendars now alert us with stark digital reminders like that which appeared on mine this morning:
“Start Resolving Budget Differences…today.”
The writing is on the wall in the Silver State. Above the door of our future is written, “Only qualified worker’s need apply!” Our future workforce will require students who are prepared to write, compute, engineer and calculate their way to success.
We can either “blow them up” as some libertarian ideologues posing as Republicans suggest—or we can build them up as Brian Sandoval is proposing.
These are the “times that try men’s souls.” Being a mere summer soldier and sunshine patriot will not suffice in achieving a new Nevada powered by career and college-ready students and prepared for all the new opportunities economic development promises.
As Thomas Paine said so eloquently, “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.”
Neither is mediocrity in Nevada schools. If we don’t do something about it, now, the future will be even more trying — for our children and grandchildren, who will be left with the mess we failed to clean up.