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While state government slashes, Nevada’s education crashes

The turkey has been carved. It’s time for some Thanksgiving leftovers.

In extremely difficult economic times, with Gov. Jim Gibbons calling for a special session of the Legislature to cut $330 million in state spending, you can’t blame people for being reluctant to focus on Nevada’s future. Surviving the present is challenge enough.

But don’t forget that, while the governor and legislators whittle away at the deficit, Nevada already ranks 47th in the nation in per-pupil public school spending and 47th in student-teacher ratio.

The picture gets worse when it comes to higher education, where Nevada is 49th per capita in funding support of state colleges and universities.

The effect of failing to make higher education a priority is that the state’s citizens enroll fewer young people in college (we’re 41st) and graduate a lower percentage of residents (we’re 45th.)

When top companies go looking for a new headquarters, they no doubt look at a state’s tax climate. But they also want an educated work force.

MORE FROM MINING? Thanks to one of the friendliest tax climates on the planet, mining outfits in Nevada pay almost nothing in taxes. And what they do cough up comes only after expansive write-offs.

According to one estimate, over the past eight years Nevada gold mining companies have written off 79 percent of the value of their multibillion-dollar gains, and paid tax on just 21 percent.

When will someone in authority ask mining for more?

With budget cuts coming at all levels of government, to allow devastating cuts to occur in the public school system and the state’s threadbare social service net without at least addressing the issue of mining’s essentially free pass in Nevada does a disservice to the citizenry.

THE REFEREE: Boxing is riddled with shams and charlatans, but it also has its share of strong characters. Veteran referee Toby Gibson was one of the fight game’s greatest guys. He died Monday at age 61.

The fact that he had refereed 30 title fights and had traveled widely never went to his head. He was a regular guy in a racket full of hustlers and a friend to boxers.

GOOD FATHER: George Shoen, known best to locals as the former owner of Kelly’s Pipe & Supply Co., has died after a long and wonderful life. He was 84.

When he wasn’t working or with his family, George spent endless hours volunteering in local youth sports programs. He made a difference in many lives, mine included.

For hundreds of now grown men, George will be remembered as a second father. He taught by example, loved his wife and family above all else, and reminded a lot of us that we too might aspire to become good husbands and fathers.

LUCHA LIBRE: It’s the kind of entertainment that promises to help you forget that times are tough. It’s called Lucha Libre, and it’s the professional wrestling craze in Mexico. It’s also becoming popular north of the border.

The legends of Lucha Libre, featuring Rey Mysterio, headline a Dec. 13 show at the Star of the Desert Arena at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm. There’s reason for those masks. They also are scheduled to be in New York that day.

BURGER KING: At a recent reunion at the Cannery of the North Las Vegas Law Enforcement Retirees, longtime citizens Jack and Sally Denton were honored. The Dentons were proprietors of that North Las Vegas institution known as Wimpy’s Drive-In.

Where have all the great burger joints gone?

No, really, I want to know. After all this turkey, a cheeseburger sounds great.

ON THE BOULEVARD: The fans and family of the late jazz singing legend Joe Williams will celebrate his birthday Dec. 7 at the Summerlin Library in an event sponsored by the Las Vegas Jazz Society and the College of Southern Nevada. Williams would have turned 90 this year. … Former auto-racer and Henderson resident Sam Schmidt is set to receive the 2008 Visionary Leader Award from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Dec. 2 in Los Angeles. … The Clark County Bar Association will distribute 850 pairs of shoes to the children of C.C. Ronnow Elementary School Dec. 5 as part of its “Shoes That Fit” program.

Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? E-mail comments and contributions to Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.

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