I was there... I was there! My inner nerd was so excited! This was my very first Gubernatorial debate in person. Finally, I could sit just a few feet away and listen for myself as the candidates answer the tough questions...
But sadly, most of those tough questions weren't really answered. I have to hand it to Elizabeth Crum on this:
In answer to Qs about "who won" tonight's #nvgov debate, I'd have to say...the people who watched the Emmys. Or the #RedSox game.
Unfortunately, it's true. If you forsook your duty as an American citizen and Nevada resident to pay attention to last night's debate and learn more about what the candidates plan to do on education, you didn't really miss too much.
Brian Sandoval lied about his education plan. He said he wouldn't cut anything except teacher salaries, but in reality his plan is far more dangerous than he hints. Because teachers really aren't paid all that much (Trust me, I've had friends and family work in the schools... It's NOT glamorous.) and they probably won't like Sandoval jumping in and demanding their contracts be reopened. If he really wants to cut $73 million from the schools' budget, he'll have to look at firing teachers.
In addition, he wants to divert $110 million from class size reduction into the general fund. Even though Sandoval spoke glowingly of "reducing class sizes", he actually wants to do away with smaller class sizes by defunding this program that's supposed to give students more of an opportunity to learn. It really shows where his priorities lie.
And finally, Sandoval wants to slash another $100 million from public schools with his voucher program to subsidize private schools. This is nothing more than a "Reverse Robin Hood" scheme of stealing from the working poor and middle class (in the form of calling our schools "failed" in order to defund them) to give to the super-rich (in the form of "bailing out" their private schools).
Behind Brian Sandoval's flowery rhetoric was something truly frightening. Naomi Klein wrote an amazing book three years ago, called "The Shock Doctrine", that explains how the radical right has used disasters and times of upheaval to sneak through their corporate right agenda of deregulation and privatization. And reading between the lines of Sandoval's statements last night, it became crystal clear he and his economic team are looking to "shock doctrine" Nevada by using our recession and budget crisis to slash public education, starve our entire public infrastructure, and let the corporate welfare agenda roll.
Rory Reid did seem to show some signs of life last night. He did challenge Sandoval on vouchers and stealing from public education to subsidize private schools. And he did challenge Sandoval on his other hidden cuts to public schools and our kids' education.
However, he refused to acknowledge the elephant in the room: How will we pay for "reform"? To his credit, Rory has come up with some smart ideas on education, from following through on class size reduction to local empowerment to freeing our kids from the shackles of "No Child Left Behind" and its flawed "standards". But again, he wouldn't talk about how he plans to pay for everything he's proposing.
We all know we can't cut our way out of this problem. As we've talked about before, there's hardly anything left to cut! And more and more state legislators are now saying the obvious that we have no choice but to look at new revenue. We know the mining industry can afford to pay its fair share, and we know corporate giants like Wal-Mart and Target have avoided paying their fair share for decades. It's time to finally address this and institute fair and progressive tax reform to save our state.
But for some reason, Rory won't talk about this. He's been told this is "bad politics". Too bad. It's good policy, and until Carson City acts on this, we won't ever have a fully functional state government.
So who won last night's debate? You tell me. And who lost? We did.
I wish I can be more hopeful. But until Rory truly calls out what Brian Sandoval is proposing and offers a clear alternative that gets our state out of this mess for good, I don't know what else to say.
(And btw, if you missed it last night and want to see the debate in full, here you go.)