(Assembleyman Pat Hickey) – The highlight of last week’s Session was the visit of Sen. Harry Reid. Unfortunately, his call for an end to legal prostitution had the effect of actually drawing more national media attention to Nevada’s other institutionalized vice. The Senate Majority Leader’s pronouncement touched on a matter that most lawmakers think pales in comparison to more important national and statewide economic problems; some of which his leadership has had a direct impact on. As a result, he failed to muster even a single sound of applause during the portion of his speech calling for an end to the world’s oldest profession.
However, something Harry said is worth pondering. Harking back to his days as a haggard young father working full time as a cop trying to support his family while juggling his education, Reid told the story of going to his academic advisor to lay down his heavy burden. The instructor told him something today’s sensitivity- trained counselors would likely never utter. He told Harry “to just quit.” It had the opposite effect on the struggling young student and the rest, as they say, is history.
Many of the UNR accounting students from Professor Cynthia Birks’ class I spoke to this past week share the senator’s plight of having to work full-time while struggling to afford the gift of a good education. Faced with rising fee increases and an uncertain economic climate awaiting them, no “quit” could be observed in that bunch of future Nevada leaders either.
Listening to the impassioned testimony of many of the state’s top educators and parent advocates in testimony before education committees this past week, it seems clear that that both the public and policy makers are committed to making education Nevada’s number one job-creating priority. At the same time, sitting on the Ways & Means Committee, it continues to be painful listening to the effects of the personnel and program cuts and the impact they are having on students, teachers, and the recipients of the state’s safety net services.
Emotions from those affected by the cuts sometimes turns that pain into the kind of rhetoric echoed in Friday’s Education Subcommittee by a union official who said the proposed reductions to teachers and public employees pay are the result of the Governor’s contempt for those persons. I am not surprised to see the blame game grow when times are tough. Still, with solutions being so hard to come by, the leveling of accusations is typically more a hindrance than a help.
For those persons like me who believe that education should be our top funding priority, I say embrace the reforms Elaine Wynn, Michelle Rhee and Heath Morrison are saying will transform our schools. Implementing standards and accountability, expanding school choice options, ending social promotion, and improving teacher quality are all things we can and must do for the voting public to support the funding that must naturally accompany some of those reforms. Both Democrats and Republicans are introducing educational reform legislation along those lines this session.
If you want to see government at work, the hearing on my bill (AB 157) to move the Primary Election date back to September should be interesting. The now nine-month campaign season, epitomized by what seemed like endless Reid & Angle television commercials, will be debated Thursday, March 3rd @ 1:30 PM in Legislative Operations & Elections, Room 3142.
Finally, with steadily rising gas prices already having their affect and foreclosure numbers continuing to climb in Washoe County, it remains a tough time to consider tax increases on Nevada families and small businesses. While I am someone who agrees that we need to look seriously (sooner rather than later) at restructuring Nevada’s tax system, I also believe that hard times like these result in harsh realities that we must accept. Harry Reid confronted that fact as a struggling student, and he became more successful by accepting the challenge to re-determine himself in spite of the hardships he faced.
As Nevadans, it may be time to take a page from the young life of the now old man from Searchlight.
(Assemblyman Hickey is a Republican representing District 25 in Washoe County.)