Good news for school choice

Karen Gray

Recently, KNPR public radio 88.9 interviewed Clark County school trustee candidates for seats A and B in separate interviews.  Seats A and B are currently held by Mary-Beth Scow and Ruth Johnson, respectively.  Both incumbents were disqualified from running after Nevada's Supreme Court upheld term limits.  The races are anyone's game. 

All seven candidates discussed charter schools and school vouchers.  Included in those discussions were Clark County's own magnet programs. Overwhelmingly, the candidates supported school choice.  It was widely recognized that charter schools meet the needs of some children who would otherwise fall through the cracks.  And it was apparent that too few charter-school seats are available in Clark County.

While the conversations touched on the pros and cons of charter schools, what was lacking was a discussion on whether candidates would support lifting Clark County School Board of Trustees' current ban on new charter school sponsorship.  In October 2007, the board withdrew its application with the State to sponsor new charter schools. 

In practical terms, Clark County School Board of Trustees removed themselves from the State's list of possible sponsors for charter schools.  Every charter school must have a sponsor and the law restricts those sponsors to local school boards, the State Board and colleges or universities within the Nevada System of Higher Education. Local school boards must apply with the State to be an authorized sponsor and Clark County board members rescinded their application as it applied to new sponsorships. New charter school applicants were left to seek sponsorship with the State Board of Education – which, in November 2007, also proceeded to place a moratorium on charter school approvals – or with a Nevada System of Higher Education college or university.

However, today there is renewed hope for school choice. In a 6 to 2 vote on Saturday, August 8, the State Board of Education lifted its moratorium on charter school approvals.