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Opinion: ESA Vouchers Are Not the Solution for Nevada’s Schools

Imagine a wealthy casino magnate decides that traffic is too much and he wants to helicopter into work.  Imagine that casino magnate asking the government for $5,000 a year to help defray costs, particularly since he isn’t personally using the roads that need repair.

Imagine a celebrity performer decides that she needs greater protection so she hires her own security detail. Imagine that celebrity performing asking the government for $5,000 a year to help defray costs, particularly since this reduces her need for the government funded police force.

In either of these scenarios, just imagine the outrage if the government actually granted those requests.

That is precisely what is happening with the Educational Savings Accounts (ESA’s). In fact, not only does it look like our government might grant this funding, we have several Republican legislators vowing to boycott any budget that doesn’t grant this funding. And they have the full vocal support of Governor Brian Sandoval, with Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Treasurer Dan Schwartz getting special mentions.

Just to be clear, Republicans have made it their highest priority to give the public’s money to people to not use a public service.

As the state legislature considers whether or not to cave to the demands of Sandoval, Laxalt and Schwartz, it’s important to know what they are truly asking.  They want money from the general fund – money that is for our entire community – to be handed out to wealthy parents to give them a discount to private schools – schools that, by the way, can openly discriminate in choosing their students.

They expect over $5,000 a year – per kid. If a child attends K-12 schools, the government would pay the parents over $60,000 – enough to buy a luxury car.  I have two children and could get over $130,000 from the government for the length of their education.  Schwartz has made it clear that he wants no limits on who and how many can apply for these accounts so there is no way of knowing just how much this will cost all of us moving forward.  It’s literally a black hole of funding, which is why it is so odd that this fiscally irresponsible program has become the Alamo of supposedly budget conscious Republicans.

Any excuse that this is for low income families is clearly just a cover.

For one, the amount is not enough for lower income families to afford private schools and, in fact, private schools often provide scholarships for just such candidates. A friend of mine just received a full ride to Meadows School for her son’s entire education. That’s far more valuable to her than a government handout.  This program also ignores the fact that these schools are often not in the poorer neighborhoods – making them out of reach physically.

I’m a parent of two young children. One just entered the system and the other is a couple of years back.

Nevada is already woefully behind almost every other state in funding, we are at the very back when it comes to test scores.  ESA’s solve neither of these two problems.

Let me repeat, it solves neither of those two problems.

Setting aside how disingenuous Treasurer Schwartz has been in trying to get parents signed up to pressure the legislature, it also sets a horrible precedent if we start allowing people to demand their tax money be returned to them. If someone doesn’t have a child, can they demand their property tax dollars to be given to them for a vacation?  Or can they demand that their money doesn’t go towards schools since they won’t use that benefit? The consequences of passing a program like this are far reaching and problematic for everyone.

For further reading, see Jeana’s testimony to the Nevada Legislature on ESA vouchers.

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