‘Kids Count’ report shows Nevada kids coming up short

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 Kids Count Data Book reveals that Nevada kids are drawing short straws, especially when it comes to education where the state ranks 49th in the nation.

So, what have our governor and Democratic lawmakers done about it? Poured more money into the public schools and pulled rug out from under parents who had signed up to use education savings accounts to educate their children in private schools or at home.

When you dig into the data details you find the little has changed over the past few years despite huge tax hikes and spending.

Billions for billionaires, pittance for parents

If the Titanic had only hit the tip of the iceberg it might still be afloat today.

Tuesday evening Gov. Brian Sandoval delivered his State of the State speech to lawmakers and outlined his proposed budget for 2017-19, which would grow from $7.3 billion from this past biennium to $8.1 billion in the next, about 10 percent.

But the fact of the matter is that is just his general fund budget, the part under which taxes pay for expenditures. If you add in all the expenses covered by fees and fund transfers and federal slop the total budget for the coming two years is really $26.1 billion, up from $23.5 billion, an 11 percent increase.

Sandoval gives State of the State speech. (RGJ photo)

Fully 44 percent of that is spent on Health and Human Services, which includes Medicaid, which is largely covered by federal funds for now.

One of the most closely watched aspects of Sandoval’s smorgasborg of increased funding for everything from a veterans home to state parks was his plan to dollop out $60 million to fund education savings accounts. According onenewspaper account, that be $25 million the first year and $35 million the second — enough for 4,800 students at first and then 6,700, even though more than 8,000 have already applied.

Another account reports the governor is considering means testing for determining who gets the education saving accounts — something the new Democratic majority has been demanding.

When Sandoval announced his funding proposal for ESAs, Republicans applauded and Democrats sat on their hands, prompting the governor to quip, “I know it would be a split house on that one.”

The governor had his chance to fund education savings accounts in the special session in which lawmakers doled out $750 million for a new football stadium in Las Vegas, but he failed to put that on the agenda.

Nevada continues to dole out billions for billionaires and pittance for parents.

 

Newspaper column: Education savings accounts not yet saved

Though the Nevada Supreme Court this past week jettisoned most of the arguments that somehow the state’s education savings account (ESA) law is unconstitutional, it still barred enforcement of the law, saying lawmakers failed to properly appropriate money for the ESAs.

It is now up to lawmakers to fix that flaw.

The justices found that Senate Bill 515, which sets aside per pupil funding in the Distributive School Account (DSA), did not even mention ESAs and Senate Bill 302, setting up ESAs, did not “appropriate” funds, even though both bills amend the education financing section of state law (NRS 387) and SB302 added to the already lengthy list of DSA deductions “all the funds deposited in education savings accounts.”

A niggling technicality.

Until the court derailed it, SB302 outlined a program under which the state treasurer was directed to establish an education savings account for any eligible child enrolled in a public school for the previous 100 consecutive days — when the clock now starts is anyone’s guess — and for most the account would be equal to 90 percent of the statewide average per pupil funding, or currently $5,139. There is no limit on the number of accounts.

In a ludicrous aside in the opinion, the court noted the education statute has a hold-harmless clause to protect against wild gyrations in enrollment and suggested that “if all the students left the public school system, the State must fund both the school district’s per pupil amount based on 95 percent of the prior year’s enrollment and the education savings accounts for all students, an amount potentially double the $2 billion appropriated in SB515 for just the public schools. Given that scenario, surely the Legislature would have specified a number of education savings accounts or set a maximum sum of money …”

What would a district with no students spend the money on?

At least a couple of major constitutional hurdles for ESAs have been cleared.

The court dismissed the contention that SB302 violates the state Constitution’s prohibition against using public funds for sectarian purposes. “We disagree. Once the public funds are deposited into an education savings account, the funds are no longer ‘public funds’ but are instead private funds of the individual parent who established the account,” the court opined. “The parent decides where to spend the money for the child’s education and may choose from a variety of participating entities, including religious and non-religious schools.”

The court also dismissed the notion that the state may only expend funds for public schools, noting repeatedly that the state Constitution instructs the Legislature to support education “by all suitable means” and noted that the drafters of the founding document “rejected the notion of making public school attendance compulsory, and acknowledged the need to vest the Legislature with discretion over education in the future.”

So, ESAs are now on the fast track to legislative approval at some future date before the 8,000 children who have applied for them have children of their own, right?

Attorney General Adam Laxalt, whose office defended the law in court, said, “The Court ruled against the State on a small funding issue that was not even debated or contentious when this bill was passed. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has made crystal clear that ESAs are constitutional and that the Legislature can fix this funding technicality and allow for the implementation of ESAs statewide.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval put out a statement after the high court ruling indicating he does not plan to call lawmakers into a special session and will leave the fixing of the appropriation up to the 2017 legislative session, which opens in February.

“Although the court found the current funding mechanism for Education Savings Accounts unconstitutional, there may be a path for a legislative solution,” Sandoval said in that statement. “However, such a solution is complex and must be well thought-out to meet constitutional muster. … I also believe it is important to consult with legislative leadership on this issue as we approach the 2017 legislative session.”

The fly in that ointment is that there is an election in November and it is entirely possible Democrats, with the backing of their teacher unions, just might gain a majority in either the state Senate or Assembly — in which case, ESAs are dead for the foreseeable future, because not a single Democrat voted for ESAs in 2015.

On Wednesday, Sandoval called a special session for Monday but did not put ESAs on the agenda.

 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.

Could the election derail ESAs?

Now that the state Supreme Court has ruled that education savings accounts are constitutional, but lawmakers erred in how they funded them, handing them a mulligan, everything is on course to make ESAs a reality, right?

Not so fast, Bubba.

“Although the court found the current funding mechanism for Education Savings Accounts unconstitutional, there may be a path for a legislative solution,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement. “However, such a solution is complex and must be well thought-out to meet constitutional muster. I am still reviewing the full decision of the Nevada Supreme Court and it would be premature to speculate on the proper method to administer and fund this important program. I also believe it is important to consult with legislative leadership on this issue as we approach the 2017 legislative session.”

So, no ESA bill will be presented to the special session in which he hopes to dole out tax money for a domed stadium in Las Vegas to be built by a billionaire. That can be crammed through, but not ESAs.

The problem is that there is an election in November and it is entirely possible Democrats, with the backing of teacher unions, just might gain a majority in either the state Senate or Assembly. In which case, ESAs are dead for the foreseeable future.

There is a need for speed, Guv.

Education savings account law is overturned by state Supreme Court, proponents say lawmakers can fix it

This morning the Nevada Supreme Court ordered the district courts to permanently enjoin enforcement of the education savings account law passed in 2015 as unconstitutional because it violates Article 11, Sections 2 and 6 of the state Constitution. (esa-opinion) But proponents say the flaws identified by the court can be easily fixed.

 Section 2. Uniform system of common schools.

The legislature shall provide for a uniform system of common schools, by which a school shall be established and maintained in each school district at least six months in every year, and any school district which shall allow instruction of a sectarian character therein may be deprived of its proportion of the interest of the public school fund during such neglect or infraction, and the legislature may pass such laws as will tend to secure a general attendance of the children in each school district upon said public schools.

 Section 6. Support of university and common schools by direct legislative appropriation; priority of appropriations.

      1.  In addition to other means provided for the support and maintenance of said university and common schools, the legislature shall provide for their support and maintenance by direct legislative appropriation from the general fund, upon the presentation of budgets in the manner required by law.

      2.  During a regular session of the Legislature, before any other appropriation is enacted to fund a portion of the state budget for the next ensuing biennium, the Legislature shall enact one or more appropriations to provide the money the Legislature deems to be sufficient, when combined with the local money reasonably available for this purpose, to fund the operation of the public schools in the State for kindergarten through grade 12 for the next ensuing biennium for the population reasonably estimated for that biennium.

Justice James Hardesty wrote, “Having determined that SB 515 (the appropriations bill) did not appropriate any funds for the education savings accounts, the use of any money appropriated in SB 515 for K-12 public education to instead fund the education sayings accounts contravenes the requirements in Article 11, Section 2 and Section 6 and must be permanently enjoined. See 2015 Nev. Stat. ch. 332 … to reqire that all funds deposited in the education savings accounts be subtracted from the school districts’ quarterly apportionments of the DSA (distributive school account). Additionally, because SB 302 (the ESA law) does not provide an independent basis to appropriate money from the State General Fund and no other appropriation appears to exist, the education savings account program is without an appropriation to support its operation.”

But Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who defended the law in court, issued a statement saying the flaws in funding addressed by the court can be easily fixed by the Legislature.

He issued this statement:

“Today’s rulings on Nevada’s Education Savings Account program are a landmark win for the families and children of Nevada. The Supreme Court agreed that the main constitutional hurdles to educational choice cited by opponents are without legal merit. Namely, the Court agreed with our common-sense arguments that ESAs were enacted for an educational purpose, not a religious one, and that the Legislature, in addition to its longstanding support of our public school system, can support educational opportunities outside of that system.

“After today’s ruling, there is only one step left to take in order to make the vision of educational choice a reality for thousands of Nevada families. The Court ruled against the State on a small funding issue that was not even debated or contentious when this bill was passed. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has made crystal clear that ESAs are constitutional and that the Legislature can fix this funding technicality and allow for the implementation of ESAs statewide. I am proud of my legal team and the Nevada courts for bringing this much-needed clarity to our State in record time, where the ultimate goal is to create a personal approach to education by maximizing each child’s natural learning abilities.”

Tim Keller, an Institute for Justice attorney who defended the ESA program before the court, said, “The Nevada Supreme Court has unequivocally said that there is no constitutional impediment to fully funding Nevada’s ESA program, but unfortunately the Court said that the funding mechanism in the current program cannot be used. The ball is now in the Governor’s and Legislature’s court to adequately fund the ESA program for thousands of families who have already applied to participate in it.”

The IJ noted that the court said, “It is undisputed that the ESA program has a secular purpose — that of education — and that the public funds which the State Treasurer deposits into the education savings accounts are intended to be used for educational, or non-sectarian, purposes. Thus, in depositing public funds into an education savings account, the State is not using the funds for a ‘sectarian purpose.’”

“Today’s decision is disappointing for our clients and the families in Nevada who need educational alternatives right now,” declared IJ Attorney Keith Diggs. “However, the silver lining is that the problem identified by the Court is a technical problem that the Legislature can, and should, fix as soon as possible.”  

Nevada Supreme Court building

Nevada Supreme Court building

Newspaper column: Supreme Court right to expedite education savings account hearing

There is a reason the courts routinely expedite cases involving children. If the cases were handled in the usual mañana fashion the children would have children of their own by the time the case is resolved.

The state Supreme Court has rightly refused an effort by the American Civil Liberties Union to further delay the hearing of its suit to block enactment of the education savings account (ESA) law passed by the 2015 Legislature, which would allow parents to keep a portion of their taxes — about $5,100 a year in most cases — in a savings account to pay for private schooling or homeschooling.

Thus far about 6,000 students have applied for funding under the law but their applications are on hold, pending a ruling from the justices of the state Supreme Court.

The court has scheduled hearings for the morning of July 29 for both the ACLU case — Duncan v. State, which challenges the law as a violation of a constitutional prohibition against using state funds for sectarian purposes — and another case — Schwartz v. Lopez, which claims the law impermissibly diverts funds from the Distributive School Account (DSA).

The ESA is under the auspices of state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who had hoped to make funding available by January 2016, but now the suits make it impossible for funding to start by the beginning of the new school year in the fall. Another delaying wrinkle is that the law requires eligible students to have been enrolled in public school for 100 consecutive days prior to receiving the funds. Who knows how many more parents could step forward in the future if and when the law is upheld?

The Schwartz v. Lopez case will be heard at 10 a.m. on July 29. In that case a Carson City judge blocked the state from carrying out the provisions of the law, saying it is unconstitutional under that Article 11, Section 6.2 of the state Constitution. He determined that “appropriation” means “to set apart for or assign to a particular purpose or use in  exclusion of all others” and therefore using part of that appropriation for ESAs violates the state Constitution.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt, representing the state, has countered that the DSA is not, as the plaintiffs allege, a lock box from which no funds may be diverted, but rather funds public schools on a per pupil basis. If a student moves out of a district or transfers to a private school or homeschooling, the per pupil funding is affected in the same manner.

The case of Duncan v. State will be heard at 11:30 a.m., after Schwartz. This case raises the question of whether ESAs violate the Constitution’s prohibition against sectarian funding by noting that ESAs could be used to send children to religion-based schools.

Clark County Judge Eric Johnson, writing on the religious separation argument, said, “The United States Supreme Court’s ‘decisions have drawn a consistent distinction between government programs that provide aid directly to religious schools, and programs of true private choice, in which government aid reaches religious schools only as a result of the genuine and independent choices of private individuals.’ … Where a school aid program, such as the ESA program, is neutral with respect to religion, and provides assistance available directly to a wide spectrum of citizens, or as in this case, essentially all parents of Nevada school children, who, in turn, direct the financial assistance to religion affiliated schools ‘wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice, the program is not readily subject to challenge …’”

Judge Johnson also dismissed speculative claims that some private schools might discriminate by writing, “Whether illegal discrimination occurs and a school may participate under the program can be dealt with in the specific context of the facts of an actual controversy rather than in the hypothetical.”

The sooner this is resolved, the sooner parents and children can get on with education plans. May the court come down on the side of freedom to choose.

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.

Editorial: High court should follow judge’s rationale for upholding ESA program

Mothers rally in favor of Nevada law creating education savings accounts. (Shannon Churchwell photo)

The Nevada Supreme Court could save itself a lot of time and effort by just cutting and pasting a Clark County judge’s 45-page ruling this past week on the constitutionality of the state’s education savings account (ESA) law.

Though Court Judge Eric Johnson’s decision dismissed an American Civil Liberties Union suit that claimed the law violates the state Constitution’s prohibition against funding sectarian institutions because parents could spend the savings at religious-based private schools, he also addressed the crux of another case that is pending before the Supreme Court.

In that case — Schwartz v. Lopez — plaintiffs argue that money set aside for public schools funding may not be used for any other purpose.

The Legislature in 2015 set statewide public education funding at $5,710 per pupil in the Distributive School Account (DSA). The ESA bill dictated that most parents who pull their children from public school would be given 90 percent of that amount to fund education by whatever means they choose — private school, tutoring, homeschooling — thus reducing the public school enrollment and the needed funding.

Judge Johnson, writing on the religious separation argument, said, “The United States Supreme Court’s ‘decisions have drawn a consistent distinction between government programs that provide aid directly to religious schools, and programs of true private choice, in which government aid reaches religious schools only as a result of the genuine and independent choices of private individuals.’ … Where a school aid program, such as the ESA program, is neutral with respect to religion, and provides assistance available directly to a wide spectrum of citizens, or as in this case, essentially all parents of Nevada school children, who, in turn, direct the financial assistance to religion affiliated schools ‘wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice, the program is not readily subject to challenge …’”

The judge also addressed and dismissed many of the financing issues raised in the Schwartz v. Lopez case pending before the Supreme Court, writing that “even if large numbers of parents enroll in the program, so long as there is a ‘uniform public school system,’ open to the ‘general attendance’ of all, the Legislature has fulfilled the duty imposed …”

According to Attorney General Adam Laxalt, whose office represents the state in seeking to have the ESA law upheld, 6,000 students have applied under the ESA program, which is on hold pending the outcome of legal challenges.

“This is a huge and important step in getting certainty for the thousands of families waiting to participate in Nevada’s ESA program,” said Laxalt of Johnson’s ruling. “The Court correctly dismissed these speculative and tenuous claims. The decision today clears the way for the Nevada Supreme Court to meaningfully address the remaining uncertainty caused by the injunction in the other case challenging Nevada’s ESA program. We are one giant step closer to helping thousands of Nevada families choose the best educational option for their children.”

The ACLU is considering whether to appeal, according to the Las Vegas newspaper.

The judge’s ruling repeatedly emphasized that the state Constitution instructs lawmakers to encourage education by “all suitable means,” which is in addition to the requirement to “provide for a uniform system of common schools.”

Johnson also noted that the plaintiffs alleged that certain schools might illegally discriminate in admissions and hiring. If that is the case, he stated litigation could be brought when that happens. “Whether illegal discrimination occurs and a school may participate under the program can be dealt with in the specific context of the facts of an actual controversy rather than in the hypothetical,” he wrote twice in the ruling.

Gov. Brian Sandoval released a statement saying, “Today’s decision by Judge Johnson is a victory for thousands of Nevada families who are pursuing the opportunity to choose the best education path for their children. School choice was an important part of the legislative education reform package enacted in 2015. I hope that all pending litigation challenging these critical reforms will soon be resolved for the sake of our students who deserve every opportunity to succeed.”

Laxalt has informed the Supreme Court that the first quarterly ESA payment for the coming school year is scheduled for Aug. 1, but in order for the Treasurer to do all the necessary paperwork, he needs a favorable court ruling lifting the Schwartz v. Lopez injunction by July 8.

The Supreme Court needs to rule on these lawsuits as soon as possible so thousands of parents and children can be released from limbo and get on with their education.

A version of this editorial appears this past 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.

Update: On Wednesday the Supreme Court issued an order denying the request for a expedited hearing and set the hearing date for July 8, meaning that ESA checks probably will not the ready for the fall semester. “On May 20, 2016, appellant filed an unopposed motion to expedite and set oral argument for June 6 or 7, 2016, and to render a decision by July 8, 2016. We deny the motion, however, we have scheduled oral argument for July 8, 2016, the earliest possible date this court can reasonably hear the merits of this case, and we will expedite a decision in this matter to the extent this court’s docket permits,” the order states.

Judge dismisses ACLU constitutional challenge to education savings account law

On Wednesday Clark County District Court Judge Eric Johnson released a 45-page ruling dismissing a constitutional challenge to the state’s education savings account (ESA) law by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU challenged the law on the grounds it violated the state Constitution’s prohibition against funding religious institutions, because parents taking advantage of the state-established savings accounts could spend the money at religion-backed private schools.

A separate challenge to the law — Schwartz v. Lopez — is still pending before the state Supreme Court. Plaintiffs in that case argue that money set aside for public schools funding may not be used for any other purpose.

The Legislature set statewide per pupil funding at $5,710 per pupil in the Distributive School Account (DSA). The ESA bill dictated that most parents who pull their children from public school would be given 90 percent of that amount to fund education by whatever means they choose — private school, tutoring, homeschooling — thus reducing the population and the needed funding.

Judge Johnson writes, “The United States Supreme Court’s ‘decisions have drawn a consistent distinction between government programs that provide aid directly to religious schools, and programs of true private choice, in which government aid reaches religious schools only as a result of the genuine and independent choices of private individuals.’ … Where a school aid program, such as the ESA program, is neutral with respect to religion, and provides assistance available directly to a wide spectrum of citizens, or as in this case, essentially all parents of Nevada school children, who, in turn, direct the financial assistance to religion affiliated schools ‘wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice, the program is not readily subject to challenge …'”

According to Attorney General Adam Laxalt, whose office represented the state in seeking to have the law upheld, 6,000 students have applied under the ESA program, which is on hold pending the outcome of legal challenges.

“This is a huge and important step in getting certainty for the thousands of families waiting to participate in Nevada’s ESA program,” said Laxalt. “The Court correctly dismissed these speculative and tenuous claims. The decision today clears the way for the Nevada Supreme Court to meaningfully address the remaining uncertainty caused by the injunction in the other case challenging Nevada’s ESA program. We are one giant step closer to helping thousands of Nevada families choose the best educational option for their children.”

The ACLU is considering whether to appeal, according to the Las Vegas newspaper.

The judge’s ruling repeatedly emphasized that the state Constitution instructs lawmakers to encourage education by “all suitable means,” which is in addition to the requirement to “provide for a uniform system of common schools.”

Johnson also noted that the plaintiffs alleged that certain schools might illegally discriminate in admissions and hiring. If that is the case, he stated litigation could be brought when that happens. “Whether illegal discrimination occurs and a school may participate under the program can be dealt with in the specific context of the facts of an actual controversy rather than in the hypothetical,” he wrote twice in the ruling.

Gov. Brian Sandoval released a statement saying, “Today’s decision by Judge Johnson is a victory for thousands of Nevada families who are pursuing the opportunity to choose the best education path for their children. School choice was an important part of the legislative education reform package enacted in 2015. I hope that all pending litigation challenging these critical reforms will soon be resolved for the sake of our students who deserve every opportunity to succeed.”

Judge Johnson addressed and dismissed many of the financing issues raised in the Schwartz v. Lopez case pending before the Supreme Court, writing that “even if large numbers of parents enroll in the program, so long as there is a ‘uniform public school system,’ open to the ‘general attendance’ of all, the Legislature has fulfilled the duty imposed …”

Editorial: Supreme Court should quickly reject education savings account law challenge

In January District Judge James Wilson of Carson City issued an injunction blocking enactment of the Education Savings Accounts (ESA) approved by lawmakers in Senate Bill 302, saying it violated Article 11, Section 6.2 of the state Constitution.

Shortly thereafter Attorney General Adam Laxalt filed a 62-page brief arguing to the state Supreme Court that the injunction should be lifted and the law enacted as written.

In a press release, Laxalt said, “This injunction has disrupted more than 4,000 Nevada families who hoped to benefit from this innovative program. While I believe the harm cited by the plaintiffs is pure conjecture at best, my office continues to work diligently to get a final answer on the constitutionality of ESAs as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The gist of the attorney general’s argument is the same as made editorially by this newspaper in mid-January.

While the judge ruled that money set aside for public schools funding may not be used for any other purpose, this ignores the fact the state Constitution says lawmakers are to fund public schools “for the population reasonably estimated …”

The Legislature set statewide per pupil funding at $5,710 per pupil in the Distributive School Account (DSA). The ESA bill dictated that most parents who pull their children from public school would be given 90 percent of that amount to fund education by whatever means they choose — private school, tutoring, homeschooling — thus reducing the population and the needed funding.

“Section 6 imposes three clear and specific duties on the Legislature concerning the funding of the public schools — and the Legislature clearly satisfied all three and SB 302 violates none,” the brief explains.

First, lawmakers appropriated money for public schools on a per pupil basis and put $2 billion in general funds into the DSA to cover both the state’s public schools funding and the ESA program.

Next, as required by a 2006 constitutional amendment, lawmakers funded education first with Senate Bill 515 and at a level that meets the constitutional requirement that “the Legislature shall enact one or more appropriations to provide the money the Legislature deems to be sufficient.”

The brief makes it clear the lawmakers deemed sufficient a per pupil funding level of $5,710 on average across the state and the same lawmakers said parents could tap a savings account amounting to 90 percent of that per pupil amount from the same state appropriation for the purpose of educating the public’s children somewhere other than a public school.

This counters Judge Wilson’s claim that the $2 billion DSA was inviolate and could not be tapped for any purpose other than funding public schools, even though the funding was based on a per pupil basis as are the ESAs.

The attorney general’s brief pointed out repeatedly that the state Constitution merely requires public schools to be funded at a level the “Legislature deems to be sufficient,” and the law funding public schools was passed three days after the ESA law; therefore, lawmakers deemed that amount sufficient.

How are parents of public school children harmed if their schools get 10 percent of the funding for pupils who are not in their public school population? Additionally, public school districts keep local and federal funding. Seems like a benefit more than an irreparable harm to the parents of public school children.

Tamerlin Godley, an attorney for parents challenging the ESA law, was quoted in the press as saying the Constitution creates a “lock box” on public schools funds and the money must be used solely at public schools. That is basically what the district judge ruled, though no one cites specifically where that “lock box” language resides in the Constitution.

The case is being expedited by the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs have three weeks to reply to Laxalt’s brief and the case could be heard and/or decided by the justices in a matter of weeks.

We urge the Supreme Court justices to give this case its highest priority so the parents and children of Nevada may plan their educational futures.

A version of this editorial appeared this past week in many 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. It ran as a column in the Elko Daily Free Press.