Who would truly benefit from ESA school vouchers? Where would ESA voucher money go? How would that money be spent? And why would these publicly supported private schools get to play by different set of standards than public schools?
As we reexamine how the school voucher program arrived in Nevada, let’s also dig deeper into one of the private schools that’s seeking ESA voucher funds.
What makes Mountain View different from a public school?
Mountain View has a far different standard of qualification for teachers than public schools do. Unlike Nevada law requiring public school teachers to meet certain standards to obtain a necessary license and undergo regular performance evaluations, Mountain View and other private schools have much more leeway in who they choose to hire. Before the application even asks about teaching experience, it demands the applicant be “born again” (as in Christian fundamentalist) and asks the applicant about church attendance and “devotional life”.
Mountain View also demands students be “born again”, even threatening “a final judgment… for those who have rejected Christ”. Students must begin their day with prayer and a pledge to the Christian flag before they pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag.
Though the school has “discipline guidelines”, students are ultimately subject to administrative discretion. Instead of consistent, uniform standards applied at public schools, Mountain View’s administrators are free to use passages from the Bible or other forms of “godly wisdom” to decide a student’s future. That could explain why some parent reviews have described a “school for conservative white people” where students experience racial slurs and a “closed off environment that isn’t accepting of others’ opinions”.
Want more details? Read the Mountain View Christian School handbook for yourself.
If SB 506 were to become law this year, Mountain View would be one of many private parochial schools eligible for state funds. Like several other private schools, Mountain View has been lobbying the Nevada Legislature to fund ESA vouchers. This is what concerns education advocacy groups like Educate Nevada Now (ENN). In a statement provided to Nevada Forward, ENN Legal Director Amanda Morgan described SB 506 as carte blanche for private schools to use public funds to turn away much of the taxpaying public. “Nevada’s proposed voucher bill, SB 506, does not prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ students, students from different religious denominations, special education students, and those with academic issues, English language learner needs, or an inability to pay.”
How did “the education session” lead to an ESA voucher bill becoming law?
In 2015, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) proposed a historic revenue raising tax reform package with the lion’s share of the new revenue going to public education. Why would the Governor push to raise taxes to fund public schools while simultaneously diverting much of that money from public schools?
Also in 2015, he pushed for the passage of his own SB 504 creating the Office of Safe and Respectful Learning and SB 338 by the late Senator Debbie Smith (D-Sparks) establishing to Safe to Tell program. Both anti-bullying programs apply to all Nevada public schools. However private schools are not just exempt from state anti-bullying laws, but they also have license to discriminate against people of other faiths and LGBTQ students. Why would the Governor send public tax dollars to schools that don’t adhere to the same education rules he worked to pass?
How could state funds end up at private schools that don’t respect all the state’s students?
As we continue our investigation into school vouchers, we’ll speak with a former Mountain View student on the education programs the school seeks public tax dollars to subsidize. We’ll also examine how the Nevada Supreme Court placed the ESA voucher program in a legal coma, only for Governor Sandoval to revive it during the 2017 legislative session. Stay tuned.