LAS VEGAS — Responding to the education agenda announced today by Democratic legislators that includes ending social promotion, expanding pre-K, mandating full-day K, and changing the funding formula for K-12, NPRI Communications Director Victor Joecks released the following comments.
It’s encouraging to see legislative Democrats promising to support ending social promotion after the third grade. Through the third grade, children learn to read; thereafter, children read to learn. Social promotion of students who cannot read after the third grade effectively sentences these children to academic failure for the rest of their time in school before — demoralized — they drop out.
During the last session, Governor Brian Sandoval submitted a bill ending social promotion, which legislative Democrats, unfortunately, killed through inaction. If Democrats follow through on their promise this session and enact this effective reform, they will merit genuine applause.
Regrettably, the other proposals presented by party leaders — including both expanding pre-K and mandating full-day K — have a repeatedly documented track record of producing only minimal and temporary gains.
Joecks noted that numerous studies, including a recently released report from the federal government on the impacts of Head Start, show that full-day K and especially pre-K produce only minimal gains that evaporate by the end of the third grade. He remarked:
If the federal government can’t produce lasting gains from pre-K after spending $8 billion a year on Head Start — more than double the state’s annual budget — why do state lawmakers think a smaller pre-K program will make any lasting difference?
Pre-K and full-day K programs would not only waste taxpayer dollars, they would also distract from the highly popular and successful reform that is increasing educational achievement across the country: school choice.
Currently, 21 states and Washington, D.C., have some form of school choice, including tax-credit scholarships and Education Savings Accounts. School choice programs have raised graduation rates in D.C. and increased math and reading scores in Milwaukee and Charlotte, and the mere competition generated from school choice increased public school outcomes in Milwaukee and Florida.
Joecks also noted that 27 random-assignment studies have found that school choice increases achievement either for students who use school choice programs or for those who remain in public schools. No random assignment study has found a negative impact for either group. A well-designed school choice program, like NPRI’s Education Tax Credit plan, would also save taxpayers money, he said, concluding:
It doesn’t matter how politicians package or program it — spending more on public education hasn’t and will not increase student achievement. Instead of pumping ever-larger amounts into a broken system, lawmakers should follow the example of over 20 states and empower parents to pick the school that’s best for their child through a well-designed, universal program of school choice. Polling has also shown that’s what Nevada parents would prefer.