New Voucher Bill, What’s The Difference?

Last week the Governor’s office introduced SB 506 a bill that would follow through on the Nevada ESA/Voucher program, right after Senator Majority Leader Aaron Ford declared Senator Scott Hammond’s almost identical bill SB 359 dead in the water.

So what’s new with this bill?

We were shocked to find there were little changes in the new bill, perhaps the most notable change is increased scrutiny on private schools in regards to testing. However, the bill still contains no accountability, with no language undoing the meager 10 percent auditing of ESA accounts, and there are still no income based or disability based restrictions, there is nothing to ensure that our public dollars can’t be used for private schools that discriminate against students for being gay or based on their faith. Since there are more applicants than proposed funds, the bill distributes vouchers on a first-come first-serve basis.

From what we know the majority of applicants come from our wealthiest zip codes in Henderson and Summerlin, areas where families already have access to some of our highest rated public schools. Recently, the Nevada Treasurer’s office said that 78 percent of applicants are families making $50,000 or less. That is inconsistent with the zip codes and given that there is no income verification requirements, it’s safe to say this deserves further inquiry. Either way, the new data presents a bigger problem, the majority of applicants cannot afford most private schools which cost an average of $8,000 to $10,000, that means a family receiving a $5,000 voucher would still have to pay at least $3,000 per year, per child. Not to mention that most private schools are not located in low income areas, don’t private transportation or free and reduced lunch and they come with additional costs for uniforms, materials, field trips and other items. What kind of “choice” is that?

If our concerns sound like more of the same, that’s because the bill is the same regressive plan that does nothing to benefit the majority of taxpayers. Many of our schools still have the same needs – needs that could be helped with the $60 million some lawmakers want to give to private schools.

Which is why we ask our legislators to keep #PublicMoneyPublicSchools and vote no on SB 506 and SB 359 and prioritize our students because #VouchersHurt.

New data supports need for Pre-K and ZOOM and Victory Schools

According to the Nevada Department of Education, Nevada is tied for the second highest share of English Language Learner students in the U.S. based on 2013-2014 NCES data.  California is highest with 22.7% followed by Nevada (15.5%), Texas (15.5%) and New Mexico (15.3%). This underscores the need for the state to be proactive with setting up our students for success through early intervention programs. According to a study by the Center for Public Education, the impact of Pre-k and half-day kindergarten was the greatest for Hispanic children, black children, English Language Learners (ELL) and children from low-income families.

Investing in quality early childhood development for disadvantaged children from birth through age 5 will:

  • Help prevent achievement deficits and produce better education, health, social, and economic outcomes.

  • Reduce the need for costly remediation and social spending.

  • Increase the productivity and earning potential of individuals.

Senate Bill 390 and Assembly Bill 447 support the continuation and growth of ZOOM and Victory schools have done just that, producing great results and proving to be a good return on investment. Assembly Bill 186 to expand Pre-K can also help set up our students for success from the start.

“The first five years have so much to do with how the next 80 turnout.” Bill Gates

Latino Lobby Day 

Educate Nevada Now in partnership with the Nevada State Education Association helped sponsor Latino Lobby Day on Monday, April 3rd. Close to 60 Latinos from Las Vegas and northern Nevada traveled to Carson to let legislators know how much they care about education and ask them to support programs that help their community. Participants learned the ins and outs of grassroots lobbying and how to use their voice to represent Nevada’s Latino community. The day consisted of lobbying 101 training, networking, visits with their legislators and a luncheon.

Thank you to Mi Familia Vota, Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus and other partners who organized the event. We look forward to supporting the Latino community as they press their representatives to prioritize education by supporting public schools!