Money works

“Everybody says, ‘Run your school district like a business,’ and so I say this all the time: ‘Inputs equal outputs. And if you keep cutting the inputs, then why would you think you’re going to be able to get better outputs?’”

—Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison, RN&R, April 21

Act One: Turns out the young woman had breast cancer.

“We’re going to have to operate,” the doctor recommended. A national breast cancer specialist, she knew her stuff.

“Oh, sure,” the woman’s husband moaned, “now you want more money.”

“Sir, your wife has a lump the size of a tangerine in her breast,” the doctor explained, patiently. “If we don’t operate, the cancer will spread.”

“Now you’re using fear tactics,” the man said. “This is not the right time for you to be asking me for money. Haven’t you heard? Economic woes. Woes!”

“Sir, your wife is 25 years old. She has her whole life ahead of her.”

“Money, money, money,” the man murmured. She was his third wife and less than half his age.

“Sir, you own a billion-dollar home on the shores of Lake Tahoe.”

“I’ll find a cheaper doctor.”

“That’s within your rights.”

“I will not throw money at this problem,” the man said. “There is no correlation between the amount of money spent on health care and a person’s health.”

“Really?” the doctor said. She would have been amused if a young woman’s life had not been at stake.

“You have to do more with less,” the man said.

“I don’t have to do anything at all. If you care for your wife, you will make this investment.”

Act Two: Turns out the roof had a leak in it.

“I’m not buying a new roof,” the homeowner told the contractor. “I will not throw money at this problem.”

“OK,” said the contractor. “Let it leak.”

Act Three: Turns out the plane hadn’t been to a mechanic since the budget cuts of 2009.

“I’m sorry to say that our airline can no longer afford mechanics,” said the company’s CEO. “Our stockholders refuse to throw money at the problem.”

The planes crashed. The former CEO ran for political office.

Act Four: Turns out the grocery stores shelves were empty. Customers stopped coming around. One day, the store manager took everything out of the store’s safe and headed for Brazil on properly serviced airplanes.

You get the idea.

Act Five: Turns out Nevada’s public schools, kindergarten through 12th grade, are facing rough challenges. High dropout rates. Poor test scores.

Our solution? Strip millions from budgets. Fire hundreds of teachers.

Our leaders prefer to let taxes in place “sunset,” allowing profits to increase slightly for some while schools struggle.

If that weren’t bad enough, as of last week, lawmakers were proposing to reappropriate room taxes that voters approved to go to schools. Voters supported a 3 percent room tax hike to increase education funding. In 2009, lawmakers used that money to pay for other things. Some want to do this again. At stake is $221 million. That’s theft.

More students in already large classes. Fewer teachers. Leaking roofs. Stalling engines. The tumor of illiteracy metastasizes. The patient is dying on the operating table.

Last week, Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison announced how the district might deal with proposed cuts of $150 million in the next two years. Education will get worse, worse, worse while Gov. Brian Sandoval waits for the magic day when businesses realize Nevada cut its business license fee from $200 to $100.

Then they’ll come here and save us.

Then we’ll be able to throw money at the problem? The future of 63,000 students lies in the balance.