On the surface, it seems like such a simple, righteous argument: Why should rural school districts get to spend five figures per student, when Clark County only gets a combined $8,270 in state and federal funding for each of its 314.643 students?
And that’s what Nevada business leaders are saying in their continuing quest to destroy The Education Initiative, the 2 percent margin tax proposed for the 2014 ballot. According to the Las Vegas Sun‘s Paul Takahashi, a Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance luncheon featured plenty of tax-bashing.
Tom Skancke, the president and CEO of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, argued on Tuesday that instead of raising taxes on businesses, policymakers ought to look at changing the state’s 47-year-old law governing how it distributes funding to schools.
“We’re fixing the wrong problem,” Skancke said, addressing 400 business leaders at an LVGEA luncheon. “We don’t need any more taxes. We’ve got to get our laws into the 21st century. This formula is broken.”
After listening to [Clark County School District Supt. Pat] Skorkowsky’s keynote address at the LVGEA luncheon on Tuesday, Skancke reiterated his group’s staunch opposition to the Education Initiative, a ballot measure that would impose a 2 percent margins tax on Nevada corporations making more than $1 million in revenue a year.
Proponents of the tax — primarily teachers union leaders — estimate it would raise $800 million a year in additional funding for Nevada schools.
Skancke argued the new tax revenue isn’t guaranteed to be earmarked for schools, especially if the funding formula isn’t changed.
“If the margins tax should pass — and it shouldn’t — there’s no guarantee that the funding amount to Esmeralda County will go down,” Skancke said. “There’s no guarantee that money will come here.”
Further, business leaders like Skancke fear that the new tax, which could be levied on businesses operating in the red, would stifle the state’s economic recovery.
“It’s bad tax policy,” Cara Roberts, spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, said about the margins tax.
As opposed to the good tax policy that the Chamber has suggested in its alternative proposal, which … oh, wait, no the chamber doesn’t have an alternative proposal, does it? Well, moving on…
The fact of the matter is, there are far fewer students in rural districts, so Nevada’s plan for funding schools — which is aimed at giving students roughly an equal education — has some seemingly stunning variances. But let’s let The Education Initiative’s backers explain:
Dan Hart, Campaign Manager of The Education Initiative questioned the remarks of Tom Skancke, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance about his concerns over per pupil expenditures in Esmeralda County.
“I hope Mr. Skancke realizes that there are less than [sic] 100 students in Esmeralda County and because there is no high school, students in grades 9-12 need to be bussed [sic] to other counties. With over 300,000 students in Clark, we could eliminate funding for Esmeralda and it would only raise per pupil funding by a couple of dollars.”
Ray Rodriguez, a parent of a student in Clark County, said: “I am appalled and frustrated by the distortions and untruths being spread by the business community on the issue of adequate school financing. This is not a political game and I resent the misrepresentations. This is about our kid’s future. All these people seem to care about is their bottom line.”
Ron Nelson, a businessperson in Las Vegas added: “I’m disappointed by this political spin from our business leaders. It’s time we stood up for our community and our kids and stopped playing games because this issue is far too serious.”
Besides, even if you took all the rural money and funneled it to Clark County (hey, aren’t they trying to do that with water?), you’d still have two problems: The money wouldn’t be nearly as much as will be raised by The Education Initiative, and what would happen to rural Nevada schools once the South has sucked them dry?
Business leaders are clearly concerned about The Education Initiative, and not just for its legitimate flaws. They’re concerned because it’s managed to advance so far as to get on the ballot, and business wants to take no chance that voters might approve it in November. So, between now and then, you will hear every argument under the sun (including that The Education Initiative will speed the sun’s consumption of its hydrogen fuel, thus leading to its inevitable expansion into a red giant, ending all life on Earth). The funding-formula issue is but one of those dire warnings.