By Warren Hardy, Elliot Anderson and Danny Thompson
We served as elected officials in Nevada on both sides of the aisle. Among our primary responsibilities was a duty to ensure transparency and accountability in our state government. Sadly, after serving in the Legislature, we can tell you that higher education governance in Nevada is broken. There is no accountability or transparency.
Century-old law prevented us from checking and balancing the Board of Regents, leading to government waste and mismanagement. Time and time again, even when we had a bipartisan consensus for reform and accountability, the Board of Regents was protected from any real accountability and typical checks and balances.
That’s why we urge Nevada voters to look into the facts and vote YES on Ballot Question 1 this November – to bring accountability and oversight to higher education in Nevada.
States with similar populations, including Virginia, have five times the number of colleges, but about one-third the number of employees at the system level compared to the Nevada System of Higher Education. Even now, in the midst of one of the most fiscally challenging times in our state’s history, the Board of Regents approved a large six-figure salary and yearly allowances in the thousands of dollars for housing, a car, and a “host account” for the new chancellor. By the terms of the contract, the “host account” can be used for meals and lodging (including for spouses in some cases) when “representing” NSHE.
Even though Nevada spends $1 billion per year on higher education, placing it 16th nationally in per-student funding, we rank 45th in student attainment. And the graduation rates at all of Nevada’s colleges are below the national average.
Our inability to attract and keep top-rated leadership has burdened the state with millions in salaries for system executives, who only stay for a few years and leave with golden parachutes in extravagant, taxpayer-funded severance packages. This continual leadership turnover has cost the system the confidence of the business and philanthropic communities, burdening our institutions with fewer resources and fewer private-public partnership opportunities for our students.
Ballot Question 1, also known as the Nevada Higher Education Reform, Accountability, and Oversight Amendment, will provide accountability and transparency to higher education governance and deliver a system that Nevada’s taxpayers and students deserve. It ensures that the higher education bureaucracy and the Board of Regents are accountable to the governor and the Legislature, as with K-12 education, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and every other taxpayer-funded entity in Nevada.
Question 1 will not change the day-to-day operation of higher education. Nevada law will still require that the Board of Regents be elected and oversee higher education. But it will provide accountability and transparency through independent oversight. If voters approve Question 1, higher education will foster more public confidence.
With better accountability and transparency in place, Nevada will be better able to refocus on the priorities of higher education in our state: serving students, economic diversification, creating a 21st century workforce, and advancing the pursuit of knowledge.
As former legislators of both parties, we are joining community leaders, business executives, and higher education professionals in urging you to please vote YES on Ballot Question 1 this November.
Elliot Anderson is a former Democratic assemblyman, as is Danny Thompson. Warren Hardy is a former Republican state senator.