Speaking at a forum for the right-wing Steamboat Institute last week, Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle effectively declared that public schools should cease to exist. Early in her speech, Angle reiterated her belief that America should abolish the federal Department of Education because education is “better taken care of at the state level.” Yet, in response to an audience member’s question, Angle also highlighted her work to de-fund Nevada’s public schools:
We had a two-thirds rule in our constitution, that the people passed not once, but twice, saying that it would take a two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature to pass a tax increase. We had 15 strong assemblymen . . . of which I was the whip. And I began to do what you do as a whip, and that was to say to these guys, “guys, we need to hold strong against this tax increase. We cannot stand a big tax increase like this. …”
During that time, the governor sued the legislature to make us raise taxes by a simple majority and the supreme court went along with it. At my own expense, I hired a fellow out of Claremont Institute, Dr. John Eastman, to take this case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, to fight for our Constitution.
Angle’s tale of her bold battle against taxes is only half of the story. In 2003, the Nevada legislature enacted a budget which did not include education funding, on the theory that they would take up a second bill which ensured that the public schools could remain open when the school year began. Because the Nevada Constitution requires both a balanced budget and the state to fund education, this second bill would include a combination of tax increases and education spending.
The two bill strategy broke down, however, when a minority of the state Assembly — led by Sharron Angle — refused to enact any bill which raised the new revenue required to reopen the public schools. Because a two-thirds majority is necessary to enact any tax increases, Angle’s minority was on the verge of shutting down all public education in the state of Nevada.
Eventually, the Nevada Supreme Court thwarted Angle’s plans. The court case which Angle refers to, Guinn v. Legislature of the State of Nevada, waived the two-thirds supermajority requirement in order to ensure that the state met its constitutional obligation to provide public schools. So when Angle says that she appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court “to fight for our Constitution,” she really was fighting against the Nevada Constitution’s requirement that all children have the opportunity to obtain a public education.
In other words, Angle supports a two-step process to reform education in the United States:
- Phase One: Eliminate all federal funding of education.
- Phase Two: Eliminate all other funding of education.