Chuck Muth: Governor's budget proposal adds up for education

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval's budget proposal would cut $625 million from K-12 education. Sounds like a lot of money. But in context, not really. The vast majority of that reduction can be absorbed without impacting classrooms simply by slightly reducing the salaries of school personnel by 5 percent.

For example, instead of a certain Regional Professional Development Program director (huh?) for the Clark County school district making $115,311.78 like he did in 2009 (Hat tip: Transparent Nevada), the RPDP would be paid $109,546.19 to do whatever it is he does that's so crucial to excellence in public education.

So under the governor's plan, public education could continue to provide pretty much all of the necessary (and still many unnecessary) programs and services, including classroom instruction, that are currently being provided but at less cost.

But there's a skunk at the picnic: unions.

You see, while it's certainly possible to continue providing the same level of service and instruction to Nevada's children by taxpayer-funded public school employees taking a small 5 percent pay cut - especially minor compared to the much larger pay cuts many in the private sector have already endured - the education unions could dig in their heels and say, "Forget the kids; we ain't takin' no stinkin' pay cut!"

And because of Nevada's collective bargaining law - which should be repealed this upcoming session, by the way - local school districts might be forced by the unions to continue paying school district personnel their current salaries and benefits and will have to cover the budget reduction through layoffs, increased class sizes and program eliminations.

Make no mistake: If those types of cuts are made, it will be because of the greedy public education unions, not Gov. Sandoval.

Meanwhile, Heath Morrison, superintendent of Washoe County schools, says that if we reduce salaries and benefits by a small percentage, "our very talented teachers and principals (might) decide they can get more pay somewhere else."

Really? In case Mr. Morrison missed it, there's a pretty bad recession still going on. Where exactly does he think they can go where there are tons of high-paying public school job openings?

But let's say some do find Nirvana and leave Nevada. With almost 15 percent unemployment here and around 10 percent nationwide, how hard really would it be to replace them? Indeed, we should probably replace them by putting unnecessary Regional Professional Development Program directors and other non-teaching school administrators back in the classroom.

The private sector has been trimming down and making tough but necessary budget cuts for more than three years now. It's high time for government to start sharing in the sacrifice, as well.

• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy grassroots advocacy organization. He may be reached at chuck@


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment