Nevada kids are winning

Andy Matthews

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.

In the days immediately following the November elections, NPRI published a series of articles on how Republicans could succeed in the 78th Legislative Session where Democrats have failed in past years.

The first installment laid out what we thought to be the most important opportunity that, if seized by the newly elected Republicans, would constitute the greatest step forward Nevada has taken in memory: reform education by enacting school choice.

And reform they did.

Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Brian Sandoval followed the lead of legislators and signed into law Senate Bill 302, creating the nation’s first universal Educational Savings Accounts program. Not only did Nevada make history through its ESA bill, it also, with the creation of the tuition tax credit scholarship program in April, became the first state to pass two pieces of school choice legislation in a single session.

By any measure, Nevada kids were the big winners of the 78th Legislative Session.

As I said in a statement following the governor’s signing of SB302, Education Savings Accounts will fundamentally transform the lives and futures of Nevada’s children.

For the first time ever, children who are struggling in public schools now have the opportunity to succeed in an educational environment that is tailored to their unique abilities and needs. Kids who have longed to be challenged in a more rigorous environment now have the chance to flourish in private, online or other alternative types of schools. Families who never before could afford private education will now be able to give their child what they know is best.

Through the ESA program, parents will be able to receive a portion of the public funds allocated to their child into a savings account. The amount available will generally range from $5,100 to $5,600 per year, with parents able to use those funds to pay for private school, online learning programs, tutoring, parented-coordinated education and even transportation. Under this program, parents, not government bureaucrats, will be allowed to follow the educational path they understand is right for their child.

And the benefits of this new program won’t be limited to the children whose families take advantage of it. Opponents claim that school choice programs such as Education Savings Accounts take money away from the public school system, thereby hurting traditional schools. But those people ignore the empirical evidence which has shown the exact opposite. By giving parents more options and creating a climate of competition, school choice forces public schools to do something they’ve never really been pressured to do: improve.

Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that school choice opponents — including the typical big-government types like teacher unions and administrators — call Nevada’s Education Savings Accounts program “the first step toward dismantling the nation’s public schools.” This is obviously an attempted scare tactic, but it does invite a question: If public schools continue to fail to provide a quality education with the ample tax dollars they’ve been given, then what good does it do for those schools to remain open? Some may indeed close, and in their places will emerge schools that thrive on the challenge to innovate and are more concerned with improving the lives of children than preserving the status quo.

Prior to the Legislative Session, NPRI committed to doing everything within its power to ensure the ESA idea became a reality. Now that we’ve succeeded, thanks in large part to the courage of Sen. Scott Hammond, who introduced this legislation, we are committing the Institute to ensuring all Nevada parents have the knowledge and tools available to give their child the gift of ESAs.

Our citizen engagement coordinator, Karen Gray, has already begun meeting with parents to teach them about these ESAs — which are only available in four other states, by the way — and help walk them through the process of researching possible schools for their children to attend. Over the next few months, you’ll see these efforts ramp up and become more publicized, but in the meantime, if you know of Nevada families that could benefit from this new opportunity, please reach out to Karen at

The creation of Education Savings Accounts is a huge victory, not just for liberty lovers, but for anyone who desires to see Nevada’s children succeed in school. Now that we’ve overcome the hurdle of establishing this program, it’s time to spread the word and ensure that it’s not just the nation’s most expansive school choice program, but also the best.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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