Gov. Joe Lombardo stressed school choice in the 2023 State of the State Address, asserting that every child in Nevada has the right to a quality education.
“Traditional public schools are not – and should not – be the only option,” Lombardo said during his Monday evening address, adding that alternatives such as charter schools, micro-schools and homeschooling increase the potential for success for Nevada students.
Lombardo seeks to bolster education options in Nevada by pushing for change during the coming legislative session. This includes:
- Submitting legislation to create the Office of School Choice within the Department of Education. This office would inform families about education options available to them;
- Providing record funding of $50 million for expanding Opportunity Scholarships, a tax credit program that awards up to $8,469 per student. However, these are restricted to households with income at less than 300 percent of the poverty level. The Opportunity Scholarship Program began in 2015 with $5 million, with a 10 percent annual increase. It then got a bump of $20 million in 2017, but was later capped at $6.66 million; and
- Ensuring that the Nevada’s Pupil Centered Funding Plan has education dollars following students, no matter what school they attend.
“In total, my executive budget puts more money in public K-12 schools and introduces more student and parental choices than any budget in Nevada history,” Lombardo said. “For the first time, parents will have an advocate inside government promoting the expansion of school choice in Nevada.”
Nevada Speaker of the House-elect Steve Yeager, in the Democratic response to Lombardo’s address, adamantly opposed the concept of funding following students.
“We must keep our taxpayer dollars in our public schools,” he said.
While Yeager and his party said they are looking forward to working with Lombardo regarding his proposal to send $2 billion to public education over the next two years, they are concerned with proposals to “divert tax dollars from public schools to private institutions.”
Gov. Lombardo also addressed other education issues including school safety, teacher shortages and literacy.
During his campaign, Lombardo announced that he would expand access to charter schools, provide more Opportunity Scholarships and invest in Education Savings Accounts.
School choice advocates said they are looking forward to working with Lombardo.
Valeria Gurr of the Nevada School Choice Coalition, a project of the American Federation for Children, hosted the Las Vegas School Choice Fair on Jan. 21, just a day before School Choice Week began. This event enabled families to learn about different school choice options, including Opportunity Scholarships.
“It is really refreshing to have a governor who wants to expand the Opportunity Scholarship Program,” Gurr told Herzog Foundation’s publication, The Lion. “(Lombardo) is proposing making funding permanent for it and increasing funding in record numbers that we haven’t seen before.”
In a press release that was issued the same day of the State of the State address, the newly formed coalition Nevada Educational Options Coalition has urged Gov. Lombardo and the Nevada Legislature to “increase educational opportunities for children.”