Week in review: what I’ll say today

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.

I’ve written multiple times over the past few months about Education Savings Accounts, an education-reform proposal that we’ve been promoting vigorously here at NPRI since even before the legislative session began.

At 3:30 this afternoon, Sen. Scott Hammond’s bill to establish ESAs here in Nevada will receive a hearing before the Senate Committee on Education, and I’ll be at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas offering testimony via teleconference in support of the bill. The hearing will provide a great opportunity to get NPRI’s arguments in favor of ESAs on the record, and I wanted to share with you, in advance, the text of my remarks.

Here’s what I plan to say (you can watch the hearing by clicking here):

Madam Chairwoman, Senators, my name is Andy Matthews, and I’m the president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute. I want to thank you for this opportunity to testify in support of Senate Bill 302, which would establish Education Savings Accounts in the State of Nevada.

.           The need to improve Nevada’s education system has been discussed at great length and over many years, by policymakers, pundits and ordinary citizens as well. Indeed, there is a strong bi-partisan consensus that our public education system has continued to fall short of its responsibility to ensure that every child has access to a high-quality education.

The primary reason why that conversation continues today, decades after it began, is that during all that time we have continued to take the same approach to addressing this problem. That approach has been to repeatedly increase education spending, without implementing serious, structural reforms to our system. Since 1960, Nevada has nearly tripled public education spending on a per-pupil, inflation-adjusted basis, in the hope that this increase in resources would improve student achievement. That we continue to grapple with the problem of an underperforming school system today should be all the proof we need that this approach has failed.

Nevada’s children and parents deserve better. And fortunately, Senate Bill 302 provides them genuine reason for hope, and I want to thank Senator Hammond for his leadership on this issue. Education Savings Accounts would bring much-needed accountability to our education system by empowering parents who opt into the program with the ability to choose the school or school type best suited for their individual children. This means that schools would have a powerful incentive to provide a high-quality education, because their failure to do so would lead to parents taking their tuition dollars elsewhere. Likewise, high-performing schools would see more and more students come through their doors. The school’s success would be rewarded and, in an unmistakable win-win, more students would receive the education they deserve.

This concept is one we take for granted throughout civil society. We freely choose where we shop, where we eat, where we stay when we go on vacation. We expect and receive high-quality goods and services through this process because producers know that the only way to stay in business is to satisfy their customers.

Those dynamics have been lacking in our education system, and the results have been tragic now for generations of Nevada’s youth. This bill would bring those dynamics — competition and accountability — to that system. And both the statistics on similar programs across the country, as well as common sense tell us that our students would benefit enormously.

It’s time for school choice in Nevada, and I urge you to act on this historic opportunity to make it happen. Thank you.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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