Home > Uncategorized > Nevada’s Voucher Legislation Rewards Middle Class, Punishes Children Raised in Poverty

Nevada’s Voucher Legislation Rewards Middle Class, Punishes Children Raised in Poverty

June 22, 2015

The Nevada legislature’s passage of a “Universal School Choice” bill introduces a new acronym into the anti-government-school arsenal: the Education Savings Accounts or ESA. As breathlessly described in the National Review, ESAs will provide a means for “every single student” to escape from the clutches of the “government school monopoly”. Here’s how the plan works:

As of next year, parents in Nevada can have 90 percent (100 percent for children with special needs and children from low-income families) of the funds that would have been spent on their child in their public school deposited into a restricted-use spending account. That amounts to between $5,100 and $5,700 annually, according to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Those funds are deposited quarterly onto a debit card, which parents can use to pay for a variety of education-related services and products — things such as private-school tuition, online learning, special-education services and therapies, books, tutors, and dual-enrollment college courses. It’s an à la carte education, and the menu of options will be as hearty as the supply-side response — which, as it is whenever markets replace monopolies, is likely to be robust.

There are several flaws with this, not the least of which is that parents who are currently paying for private schools out of their own pockets or homeschooling their will be getting a windfall while parents who attend public schools will, presumably, need to make up the difference out of their own pockets. But wait, there are even more flaws in this plan!

Notably, families can roll over unused funds from year to year, a feature that makes this approach particularly attractive. It is the only choice model to date that puts downward pressure on prices. Parents consider not only the quality of education service they receive, but the cost, since they can save unused funds for future education expenses.

What this does is incentivize homeschooling, especially on-line homeschooling since parents will be able to accumulate unspent money for post secondary schooling. And how will the government be certain that the money is well spent?

Accountability is infused throughout the ESA option. Funding is distributed into the accounts quarterly, and parents provide receipts for expenditures to the state. In the event there is a misuse of funds, the subsequent quarter’s distribution can be withheld and used to rectify it. Students must also take a national norm-referenced test in math and reading, a light touch that doesn’t dictate students take a uniform state test.

The plans set forth in this paragraph defy comprehension! How will be parents submit the receipts? How will they be processed fast enough to withhold them in “the subsequent quarter”? If student’s are taking a norm referenced test by definition half of them will score below average. What happens to those students? Will their parents be allowed to withdraw funds the next quarter? Oh… and the test itself: who will grade it? Who will monitor the results? Call me cynical, but I doubt that the legislature has answers for these questions and I doubt that they included funding for the oversight and auditing that this plan will require… but no matter, no one will suffer because this will break the government’s stranglehold on schooling and lead to an environment where everyone will have a chance to learn— if they come from a typical middle class home. Here’s National Review blogger Lindsey Burke’s analysis of how tis will play out for students:

So imagine now what the future of education could look like in Nevada. Instead of being assigned to brick-and-mortar schools based on their parents’ ZIP codes, students can instead have their state funds deposited into an ESA. Parents can then craft a learning plan that matches best to the unique learning styles and needs of their children.

So in the Brave New World of the Nevada legislature all children are being raised in households with parents who have the time and ability to “craft a learning plan for their children“, who can drive their children out of their ZIP codes with dilapidated schools to a private school that will gladly accept their lower tuition payments,  who can access on-line courses on their high-speed internet connections. It’s a world with no poverty, no ESL students, no special needs students, cars in every garage, supplemental funds to cover the costs of private schools, broadband and high-end computers in every home… and unicorns eating leafy plants in the desert.


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