It is confirmed, Nevada students dead last in college preparedness

This week the administrators of the ACT test confirmed what was suspected a month ago when preliminary data were released, Nevada high school students are dead last in the nation in college preparedness.

Nevada students eked out a mere 17.7 points out of a possible 36 points, compared to a nationwide score of 20.8, which was down from 21 a year ago.

Nevada’s score plummeted from the previous year’s 21 points, largely because only 40 percent of students took the test then but the state now requires all students to take the ACT. Other states that made the test mandatory also saw declines as non-college bound students were added.

Additionally, as reported earlier, 90 percent of Nevada students failed to achieve benchmark scores on all four of the test categories — English, math, reading and science. ACT now reports that this compares to 34 percent nationally.

“This decline in overall readiness can be explained, in large part, by the addition this year of seven more states that funded the ACT for all 11th graders as part of their statewide testing programs,” ACT reported. “Scores went down significantly in each of those seven states, as expected, helping to drive the national average down. In contrast, 22 other states saw score increases this year, and another eight states saw no change. A total of 20 states administered the ACT to all public school graduates in this year’s class.” Only 18 states reported 100 percent participation.

Sixty-four percent of 2016 graduating seniors took the ACT compared to 59 percent of graduates the previous year and 52 percent in 2012.

Additionally, Nevada was dead last in percentage of students meeting the benchmark scores in each of the four categories, save one. In math, Mississippi students scored 1 point less.

Only 37 percent of Nevada students achieved the benchmark score in English, compared to 61 percent nationally. Only 26 met the reading benchmark, compared to 44 percent nationally. Just 21 percent scored adequately in math, compared to 41 percent in the nation. And 18 percent did well enough in science, compared to 36 percent.

“Last year, ACT issued a call to action, urging educators and policymakers to work to improve the education system as a whole,”ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda was quoted as saying in a press release. “While the drop in scores this year is not indicative of lower achievement overall, we are still seeing far too many students left behind by the nation’s education system. When a third of high school graduates are not well prepared in any of the core subject areas, college and career readiness remains a significant problem that must be addressed. It is critical that we continue to work hard to improve.”

The Las Vegas newspaper quoted Steve Canavero, state superintendent of public instruction, as saying the test results are unacceptable. “We can do more, and our students can do more, and our system can do more,” he said. “Poverty, mobility (and) diversity cannot be an excuse.”

That has yet to be proven.

ACT 2016 by state 1

ACT 2016 by state 2

 

Finally, having two newspapers in one bag fills in both sides of the story

Sheldon Adelson (R-J file photo)

Ronald Reagan said during a 1980 primary debate in New Hampshire, “I am paying for this microphone.”

Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson is paying for his microphone, which happens to be a front-page printed news story in the Las Vegas newspaper today and the lede position of the paper’s website for the dissemination of his “statement” calling on fellow casino executive MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren to support his proposed football stadium, apparently along with a big chunk of public funding. The current request stands at $750 million via room tax rate hikes.

The obligatory disclaimer at the end of the story reveals: “The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.”

The R-J dutifully reported this morning, “Murren declined to respond to Adelson’s comments Monday, but Murren is on record as favoring the stadium if less public money is contributed to the project.” The Adelson statement reportedly disputes what it describes as  “Murren’s position” — that a convention center expansion is a “must-have” tourism addition, while a stadium would be merely “nice to have.”

The Oakland Raiders have expressed an interest in relocating to Las Vegas if a stadium is built.

But, as Mark Twain is incorrectly credited with saying, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed,” only in this case you have to read two newspapers to be fully misinformed.

You see, delivered in the same bag on the driveway today is the Las Vegas Sun section, which happens to have a front-page story on how Murren views a number of topics, including the proposed stadium. The piece was actually posted online this past Friday, but not deemed worthy of print until today.

The article recounts:

Murren said that, as a football fan, he would love to see an NFL team in Las Vegas and that some level of public funding is appropriate. However, he said he doesn’t have enough information to be able to say what that level should be — the cost of the stadium, other infrastructure costs, how the capital will be pulled together, or what the burden is on the taxpayer.

“Without all that information it’s difficult to say I’m a big fan,” Murren said.

Plus, he said that he chafes at the suggestion that the public wouldn’t be paying for the stadium by virtue of tourists covering the room tax, since a significant chunk of the money goes toward education as well as other funds across the state.

The paper said Murren supports a special session of the state Legislature to approve a room tax hike to pay for the convention center expansion. He also was quoted as saying he does not want to raise the room tax so much that it becomes a disadvantage in competing with other cities for conventions.

In December, as Adelson was taking control of the newspaper, the R-J published an editorial explaining how his ownership might alter some of the newspaper’s long-standing editorial positions. It included this observation about the convention center expansion plans:

Mr. Adelson considers the convention authority, which is funded by room taxes and operates the Las Vegas Convention Center, a publicly subsidized competitor to his company’s Sands Expo and Convention Center. His company opposes the authority’s $2.3 billion convention center expansion plan. The Review-Journal supports it.

Potential change in position: Complete reversal.

Looks like the battle of the casino titans will be played out on the microphones each chooses.

Jim Murren (Sun file photo)

 

 

Senate race Social Security issue revisted

Chileans protest their private pension program. (Reuters photo via WSJ)

As Nevada’s two major party Senate candidates continue to parry and thrust over the issues — with Social Security as one of those — we might hear more about this weekend’s protests in Chile, where, in 1981, the nation privatized its pension program.

According to The Wall Street Journal, thousands took to the streets demanding a dismantling of that private pension system because its payouts are too low.

 

Catherine Cortez Masto has been accusing Joe Heck of advocating privatization of Social Security, though he actually has merely suggested allowing younger workers to privately invest a portion of their Social Security contributions.

According to WSJ, Chileans on average retire on less than 38 percent of their pre-retirement income, compared to almost 45 percent of pre-retirement income for Americans on Social Security.

Workers in Chile contributed 10 percent of their wages to an investment account. U.S. workers and their employers each kick in 6.2 percent of wages up to $118,500 a year.

The plan in Chile is to start requiring employers to pony up 5 percent of wages, but that doesn’t help current retirees, 80 percent of them living on less than minimum wage and 44 percent below the poverty line.

But you have to read to the final paragraphs of the report to learn the reason for this apparent disparity.

The problem is that too many Chileans fail to consistently contribute to the system.

Those who contributed for at least 30 years received an average pension amounting to 77 percent of pre-retirement income.

Editorial: Most sheriffs and the governor oppose gun background check initiative

Three out of four Nevada county sheriffs agree, Question 1 on the November ballot, the Nevada Background Checks for Gun Purchases Initiative, should be voted down, because it will do nothing to prevent gun violence, will be too costly and merely put honest people in jeopardy of running afoul of a nitpicking law.

The National Rifle Association reports opposition to Question 1 has been announced by Sheriff Ken Furlong (Carson City), Sheriff Ben Trotter (Churchill County), Sheriff Ron Pierini (Douglas County), Sheriff Jim Pitts (Elko County), Sheriff Keith Logan (Eureka County), Sheriff Ron Unger (Lander County), Sheriff Kerry Lee (Lincoln County), Sheriff Al McNeil (Lyon County), Sheriff Sharon Wehrly (Nye County), Sheriff Gerald Antinoro (Storey County), Sheriff Chuck Allen (Washoe County) and Sheriff Mike Allen (Humboldt County).

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo has chosen to remain neutral and others are silent on the matter.

Most recently, Gov. Brian Sandoval has added his voice to the opposition. “The governor does not support Question 1. He has concerns that this measure would dilute the legitimate rights of law-abiding Nevadans and that it does not actually address the complex issue of keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals,” said Mari St. Martin, a spokeswoman for the governor.

St. Martin has noted that existing law already prohibits a person from selling or giving a firearm or ammunition to another person if he or she has actual knowledge that the other person is under indictment for or has been convicted of a felony, is a fugitive from justice, has been found mentally ill or is in the country illegally.

Question 1 would require “universal” background checks and require law enforcement to scrutinize virtually every gun sale or transfer. It is being pushed by Nevadans for Background Checks, which is funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety. It would require most gun transfers to be conducted through a federally licensed firearms dealer.

A summary of the measure reads in part: “This initiative requires that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check on the potential buyer or transferee. A licensed dealer may charge a reasonable fee for this service.”

Elko County Sheriff Jim Pitts has been quoted as saying, “This is for one thing a law that we can’t enforce. There’s no way of enforcing this. Only the citizens who follow the law are going to be the ones who follow it, and the ones that are the criminals aren’t going to follow it anyway. How are we going to follow it up?”

Washoe County Sheriff Chuck Allen said Question 1 infringes upon the Second Amendment and “will do absolutely nothing to stop criminals while criminalizing the commonplace activities of many Nevada gun owners.”

Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong has said, “Any bill that does not address mental health, which I believe to be the core cause of the violence we’ve had across the country, does not meet my expectations.”

Sheriff Sharon Wehrly in Nye County has said, “It merely places more restrictions on good people, will make it more difficult, and incur unnecessary costs for law-abiding citizens to manage their personal property.”

A recent survey conducted by Las Vegas television station KTNV in conjunction with Rasmussen Reports found that 65 percent of those polled support the background checks initiative and only 28 percent opposed it with 7 percent undecided.

Perhaps the majority of sheriffs and the governor can help persuade the voters that one more unenforceable law on the books will just add to the regulatory burden and cost and do nothing to increase safety.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: Which Senate candidate is correct on handling Social Security?

Heck and Cortez Masto

The race to replace Harry Reid in the Senate is one of the most closely watched and highly contested elections in the nation this year. The most recent poll has Republican Rep. Joe Heck leading Reid’s hand-picked Democratic opponent, former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, by 3 points — 38 percent to 35 percent with the substantial remainder undecided.

More than $11 million dollars has been spent by outside organizations on this race, the fourth highest in the nation, according to OpenSecrets.org.

On almost every issue the two candidates take opposing stances, but perhaps the most contentious is what to do about Social Security.

Cortez Masto has latched onto a comment then-freshman Congressman Heck made during a meeting with constituents five years ago in which he called Social Security a “pyramid scheme” in which “the people after you are paying for your benefits.”

She has accused Heck of wanting to privatize Social Security to benefit big banks and Wall Street.

“Congressman Heck’s Washington handlers did more contortions than an Olympic gymnast in trying to defend his record of putting Wall Street and the Big Banks ahead of Nevada families,” Zach Hudson, spokesperson for the Cortez Masto campaign said in a recent press release. “First Congressman Heck’s handlers falsely say he does not support the privatization of Social Security — then they immediately say he does support putting the retirement security of Nevada seniors in the hands of Wall Street.”

What Heck has suggested is allowing younger workers to have the option of privately investing some portion of the money that currently is deducted from their paychecks for Social Security.

Heck’s campaign argues that he is “the only candidate in the race for U.S. Senate who is willing to heed the warnings being issued by the Medicare and Social Security trustees. Those warnings are clear: Medicare and Social Security, upon which thousands of Nevada seniors rely, are not on sound financial footing and need to be strengthened if they are to provide the health and income security our seniors deserve. Ignoring those challenges, which would be Ms. Cortez Masto’s approach, will result in benefit cuts and uncertainty for those near retirement age.”

A Democratic super PAC recently spent $900,000 on commercials attacking Heck’s stance on Social Security.

In the middle of this contretemps, Reid himself put out a press release a week ago on the 81st anniversary of the creation of Social Security praising the program for “providing millions with the economic security they have earned and deserve.”

Reid fulminated, “Unfortunately, despite decades of success, many Republicans continue to threaten the future of Social Security. Republican leaders routinely exaggerate the financial challenges facing the program in an effort to create a false sense of crisis. … I have spent my career fending off attacks against Social Security.”

This is the same Reid who earlier in his career took to the floor of the Senate on Oct. 9, 1990, standing next to a sign emblazoned in red letters with the word “embezzlement.”

“It is time for Congress, I think, to take its hands — and I add the president in on that — off the Social Security surpluses. Stop hiding the horrible truth of the fiscal irresponsibility that we have talked about here the past two weeks. It is time to return those dollars to the hands of those who earned them — the Social Security beneficiaries and future beneficiaries. …” Reid ranted. “I think that is a very good illustration of what I was talking about, embezzlement, thievery.”

Nothing has changed in the past 26 years except Reid’s politics.

In fact, the Social Security Board of Trustees in its 2016 annual report states that Social Security reserves will be depleted in 2034, after which there will be sufficient funds to pay only three-quarters of scheduled benefits.

As for the argument that private investments are too risky, Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner notes that if workers who retired in 2011 had been allowed to invest just half of their payroll tax deductions they would have retired with more income than they are getting under Social Security and, even under the worst-case scenario,  their benefits would equal traditional Social Security payouts.

“With Social Security already running a cashflow deficit today — and facing a $21 trillion shortfall in the future that will make it impossible to pay promised benefits — private investment and personal accounts should be part of any discussion about reforming the troubled system,” Tanner advocates.

Sounds like what Heck proposes.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Nevada attorney general joins the ranks of those opposed to gun background check initiative

As we have already noted, Question 1 on the November ballot, which would impose universal gun background checks, will do nothing to stop criminals from obtaining guns, will be expensive to try to enforce and will only ensnare upstanding citizens in its labyrinth of regulations.

Now, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt says he agrees. According to an emailed press release from the National Rifle Association, Laxalt says, “As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I take seriously my duty to ensure that my fellow Nevadans are safe. I have carefully reviewed the Question 1 initiative and have concluded that it would not prevent criminals from obtaining firearms and would instead cost Nevadans time, money, and freedom.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval earlier came out against the proposal as have a majority of Nevada’s sheriffs.

Robert Uithoven, campaign manager for NRA Nevadans for Freedom, boasted, “Laxalt has always put service to his country and fellow Nevadans first. He knows that Question 1 is part of larger political agenda aimed at restricting our Second Amendment rights and has nothing to do with public safety.”

AG Adam Laxalt