Now is the time to invest in the economic future of Nevada | nnbusinessview.com

Now is the time to invest in the economic future of Nevada

Jim Pfrommer

Nevada is undeniably in an economic crisis. Our children and young adults are the key to our economic future. Education reform and investment in education are the most critical components in the complex strategy necessary to build a new economy for the Silver State.

The Education Alliance, whose board consists primarily of local business representatives has recently published a comprehensive analysis, based on independent sources, of how Nevada ranks in education performance and as a “state to do business” and how both are related.

Currently Nevada’s 8th grade students perform the lowest in the nation in reading and only marginally better in math. Our poor performance is not primarily due to growth in the number of non-English-speaking and poor students, because Nevada’s white students’ and non-poor students’ 8th grade reading scores are the worst in the nation except for West Virginia’s. Nevada’s high-school graduation rate, college-going rate, and college graduation rates are well below national averages.

The data show a clear correlation between K-12 achievement and per-pupil expenditure at the state level, but they also show that other factors cause some states to perform much better than other states that spend comparable amounts. Nevada spends less per pupil on K-12 education than nearly every other state with comparable student demographics. Yet we found evidence that other low-spending states are getting better results than Nevada.

Despite having the country’s fourth best business-tax climate and second lowest personal tax burden, Nevada was ranked only 47th as a “best state for business” by CNBC and 31st by Forbes magazine. Virginia, Colorado, and North Carolina were in the top five states for business in both rankings. Those three states had somewhat higher business taxes than Nevada but spent more on economic infrastructure than we do. They invest more per pupil in K-12 education, more per capita in higher education and more per $1,000 of gross domestic product in academic research and development, with better performance in both K-12 and higher education than Nevada.

The data show that strong state economies result from a combination of strong educational systems, high-quality workforce, innovation, technology, access to capital and a favorable business tax climate. To rebuild from its current economic crisis, Nevada needs to balance taxes with increased investments in these specific areas of its economic infrastructure. Community colleges, with a workforce mission, and universities with a research component play a key role in Nevada’s economic recovery and diversification. Increased investments in education must be accompanied by reforms proven to improve student achievement.

There is no quick fix. It will require changing our views about education and the economy, because both are inextricably linked. Increased targeted funding for education with real accountability for improved achievement, must be viewed not as a current expenditure but as an economic investment in Nevada’s future.

The intent of our analysis is to set the stage for the 2011 and future legislative sessions to rebuild Nevada’s economy and educational systems. The link to our Education and Economy analysis is http://www.ed-alliance.org .

Jim Pfrommer is a certified public accountant, local business owner and president of the Education Alliance of Washoe County Inc.


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