LAS VEGAS – School choice advocacy groups are urging Gov. Joe Lombardo and the Nevada State Legislature to increase educational opportunities for children in the coming year.
The newly formed Nevada Educational Options Coalition, made up of Nevada Policy, Power2Parent, Americans for Prosperity, the Nevada School Choice Coalition (a project of American Federation for Children), Nevada Action for School Options and Battleborn Moms, is optimistic that 2023 will be a year of positive change, in part because of Gov. Lombardo’s platform, which includes increased school choice.
“With the election of a new governor, there has never been more enthusiasm among Nevadan families to fix our broken education system,” said John Tsarpalas, president of Nevada Policy. “Parents are watching other states adopt universal education savings accounts and asking themselves, ‘why not here?’”
“Parents overwhelmingly support school choice, and now we have a governor who understands that education plays a critical role in the future success of our state,” Power2Parent President Erin Phillips said. “When we don’t prioritize education, our children lose opportunities and our economy suffers without a workforce prepared to meet current demands in a variety of fields.”
“After years of fighting to expand and protect the only school choice program in Nevada that is helping vulnerable students – the opportunity scholarships – it’s refreshing to have a governor who understands that this is not the time to pick political fights when our children have suffered long enough,” said Valeria Gurr, Nevada state director for the American Federation for Children. “Instead, this is the time to compromise.”
“Nevada students require educational solutions as diverse and unique as they are, and the time for action is now,” said Americans for Prosperity-Nevada State Director Ronnie Najarro. “The coalition urges Gov. Lombardo to join the fight and prioritize education as the legislature gears up for session.”
The coalition outlined several ways to improve education in Nevada, including the following:
- Properly fund the Opportunity Scholarships, increase base funding and restore the small escalator in order to stabilize the program, address waiting lists and provide for small incremental growth.
- Capital funding for charter schools: In Nevada, 95 public charter schools serve more than 62,700 students, which is approximately 8 percent of the state’s K-12 student population. However, public charter schools cannot access facility funding generated by property taxes;
- Introducing Universal Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) of approximately $7,000 per student;
- Allowing students to find innovative ways to meet graduation requirements, especially those in which funding is not dependent on bodies in the classroom but could allow for alternatives such as internships and online schooling; and
- Expanding the Transforming Opportunities for Toddlers and Students (TOTS) Grant program, which provides grants to Nevadans with disabilities to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and increase opportunities.
Members of the Nevada Educational Options Coalition believe a school choice program where funding follows the child would be beneficial to Nevada students. The goal is to have 90 percent of per-pupil funding be allocated to education savings accounts that would enable parents to access funds and apply them to the education environment that works best for their children.