School choice, not a new, oppressive tax, offers students better opportunities

School choice, not a new, oppressive tax, offers students better opportunities

By Chantal Lovell
  • Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Liberals have already begun to tout the margin tax proposal that will appear on the ballot this November.

Because implementing a modified gross receipts tax that would increase taxes on businesses already losing money isn’t a winning sound bite, liberals are trying to spin it differently.

Proponents of the margin tax are instead deceptively billing it as the Education Initiative, saying the money raised would go into Nevada’s Distributive School Account. It’s important to note, however, that even if the tax passes, legislators wouldn’t actually have to spend more on education. Indeed, total education spending could even decrease.

Of course, the Nevada State Education Association, which spent over $640,000 getting signatures for the margin tax, claims that additional money will improve Nevada’s education.

And even some margin tax opponents, such as MGM Chief Executive Officer Jim Murren, have stated they support more funding for education, but not through the margin tax.

In response, liberals have fired this question at those fearful of the margin tax’s negative economic consequences: “What’s your plan?”

This is the perfect time for that question, because the real plan to fix education is being celebrated all over the country this week during National School Choice Week. Running from January 26 to February 1, it will feature over 5,500 independently organized events highlighting how school choice increases student achievement.

School choice is the concept that parents should be empowered to spend a portion of the money government already spends on education to choose the school and school type best for their child — whether online, charter, private, home school or traditional public. It’s a movement that has spread across the country, and now 21 states and Washington D.C. have some form of school choice.

Third-grader Braydon is one school choice beneficiary. For years, he’d struggled to read and keep up with his class in Indiana. Then, his mom learned about the state’s Opportunity Scholarships or voucher program, which enabled him to move to a private school, despite the family’s lack of financial resources.

“I am learning so much more even though the work is harder,” he told School Choice Indiana. “They want me to work slower there and get it right the first time. If I make a mistake, they ask me to correct the work over the weekend and return it. … I am not as upset because it is peaceful in my classroom.”

Or, consider sophomore Tabitha, whose Grade Point Average, interest in science, extracurricular involvement and self-confidence all increased after Indiana’s Opportunity Scholarship program enabled her to move from public to private school. Her mother, Christina Godfrey, said Tabitha is now able to, “thrive at school rather than simply survive.”

It’s not just anecdotal evidence that validates the merits of empowering parents to make decisions for their children. Empirical evidence shows that school choice is the answer to Nevada’s education problems. Twelve random-assignment studies have been conducted on the academic outcomes of those using school choice programs. Eleven found increased student achievement; one found no difference.

Also, 23 studies have looked at  the impact of school choice on public school performance. Of them, one found no difference. But 22 found better outcomes.

School choice draws its success from its ability to meet the varying needs of a vastly diverse student population. No two children are alike, so why do we force them to fit into the broken mold of the one public school model?

School choice is a plan that has been presented time and time again to legislators by state leaders such as Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sen. Barbara Cegavske and Sen. Michael Roberson.

So what happened?

These plans were killed — usually without a committee hearing — by lawmakers in thrall to the Nevada State Education Association. It’s folks like these now saying they’re wondering where our side’s plan to improve education is.

Fortunately, National School Choice Week includes thousands of events, including numerous ones here in Nevada, reminding liberals that the path to improve education comes from empowering parents — not by passing a tax that will put those parents out of work.

Chantal Lovell is deputy communications director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more visit http://npri.org. This article first appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.


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