Nevada Board of Regents candidates in first bids for elective office

Apr 27, 2010 Full story: Reno Gazette-Journal

Two people with backgrounds in education and a lawyer for a telecommunications company want to represent District 8 on the Nevada Board of Regents.

Full Story
Av Valeska

Fallon, NV

#1 Apr 27, 2010
Reporter’s Questions

“Where should higher education look to find additional money other than the state general fund?”

Candidate #2:“higher education needs more state-based funding ...”

Candidate #3:“We need a (state) revenue that is consistent ...”[not subject to reductions along with other budgets paid for by general funds]

Mark Feest:“[By focusing] on programs that are important to local industries, local industries will want to lend support.” When the system is “driver of the economy, and as a value to the state,[the public] will be more willing to put more money in.”

“How will you ensure the quality of higher education in light of the current budget cuts?”

Candidate #2:“K-12 and higher education representatives need to present a united front in the next legislative session so they aren’t pitted against on another for available funds.”

Mark Feest: I disagree with the notion that asking for more money, while aligned with another entity asking for more money, is a solution to dealing with budget cuts. The next session is anticipated to have a $3 billion shortfall between revenue and previous commitments. It would require a tax increase equal to approximately 4 times the largest tax increase in the history of Nevada just to provide the same level of funding as the last budget.

Candidate #3:“The regents must listen to the presidents at each of the institutions as well as the faculty and the student body and, presumably, those individuals have all worked together to develop plans and looked at the issues in relation to the mission of each institution.”

Mark Feest: While I agree that the two stakeholder groups mention are important in this process, my opponent fails to recognize the third stakeholder who provides 4 out of every $5 of funding to the system, or the taxpayer. I would not presume that the stakeholders who have worked to develop plans have considered whether the system will pay returns on the public’s investment. It is possible their primary concerns include good class schedules, minimal rate increases, and no salary cuts. I am not sure regents are even needed under this scenario.
Av Valeska

Fallon, NV

#2 Apr 27, 2010
Candidate 2: Believes that it is empowering to rural Nevada that there is now “a plan to keep the College of Agriculture in existence to some degree ...”

Mark Feest: I disagree. Agriculture is a primary economic driver in rural Nevada if not the primary driver. The agriculture department at the University of Maine will not help the Nevada farmer develop crops that use less water or generate more revenue per acre. In contrast, the sociology department at the University of Maine could teach a “History and Culture of Pizza” course that has the same value as the one in the UNLV catalogue.

Candidate 3: Is a dean at a member institution said “being a regent who oversees the college where I work would not be a conflict.” She continues,“I’ve already gotten a legal opinion on my roles as a staff member and being a regent ... if something came up that might be a conflict or perceived to be a conflict, I would refrain from voting.”

Mark Feest: Notwithstanding her legal opinion, I am not sure what substantive item she could vote on. The Nevada Revised Statutes provide that the regents hire the chancellor, set the salary, evaluate, approve budgets submitted by the chancellor, set employment policies, approve programs, etc. Each of these items are brought before the regents by either the chancellor or an employee that reports to the chancellor. Nearly all decisions made by the regents are essentially rejections or approvals of the chancellor’s agenda. It would seem difficult to have hiring and salary authority over one’s boss. Moreover, as a member of senior staff, this candidate is indirectly impacted by every budget item given that the funding is determined by the legislature and thereafter the budget is approved by the regents. The finite nature means approving one program reduces available funds for the program she works in.

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