Lives of Northern Nevadans have been changed in a big way, and the effects have all but slammed the brakes on it’s fast-growing economy. Back in late January, the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) hosted their annual State of the Economy. In the address, the Reno-Sparks area received accolades for its jump in job creation, drop in unemployment rate, and overall economic growth. I attended this event, along with more than 1,000 others from our business community.
Mike Kazmierski, EDAWN president, joined a virtual panel of experts on April 3 with Northern Nevada Business Weekly to discuss the region’s path to economic recovery with an emphasis on a better-educated workforce. He advocated that schools statewide should be teaching classes like coding and robotics, which are skills that will be needed in the future.
“That will make it easier to attract the next generation of jobs and grow the next generation of jobs through our entrepreneurial activity,” he said.
“This crisis will probably accelerate our transition into the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he explained. “Automation and AI is going to be accelerated, which requires a better-educated workforce at a time when our state is going to take huge budget hits in the next couple years. That will impact their ability to properly fund education, which is already improperly funded.”
How much does Nevada spend now on education funding? The state spends about $9,200 per student and ranked 48th out of 49 states in school financing according to Education Week’s 2019 Quality Counts report. Wyoming, for example, spends $18,090 per student which is nearly double what Nevada pays. Our state also ranks second-to-last in public education overall.
Nevada had the nation’s oldest school funding formula until last summer, when Governor Sisolak signed a new school funding formula into law. The state has also turned funds from marijuana sales tax from a rainy day fund into an education fund instead. This has generated an estimated $119.9 million is additional school funding to be used over the next two years.
“We’re giving 30% of our budget, in theory, to education. The reality is, we’re still at the bottom of the heap when it comes to national funding,” Kazmierski said April 3, adding that education lobbyists and parents need to make their voices heard loud and clear by elected officials. “We’re moving in the wrong direction, so at some point we need to get together as a state and say education is our top priority. I think it really is something that will benefit not just the here and now, but our economy in the long-term.”
However, now that we are in present day’s circumstance it remains to be seen how the COVID-19 crisis will impact future funding. Shortly after the April 3 panel, Sisolak then issued an order to state agencies and others who benefit of state funding to be ready for budget cuts as a result of reduced tax collections caused by coronavirus-related business closures.
The order stated that agencies should identify a 4% cut for this fiscal year and a 6% for next fiscal year, but there could be two additional 4% reductions in 2021 if the situation gets worse.
Along with Mike Kazmierski, the panel was joined by Patricia Herzog, director of the rural economic and community development for GOED; Jeff Brigger, director of business development at NV Energy; and Tom Harris, director of the university center for economic development at the University of Nevada, Reno. Together they discussed retraining the workforce, linkages between rural and urban areas, and more. Click here for the full article.
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