School choice

Students and supporters rally on the steps of the Capitol during National School Choice Week.
Paul Boger / KUNR Public Radio

There are more than 2,300 students currently enrolled in Nevada’s Educational Choice Scholarship Program, otherwise known as Opportunity Scholarships. It gives students from low and middle-income families aid to help pay tuition at qualified private K-12 schools. While the program has remained popular since its inception, Democratic leaders are considering a measure that would cap the program at current levels.

Nevada To Battle Over School Choice

Nov 1, 2018
Students wearing construction crew gear watching their teacher.
Paolo Zialcita

With midterm elections quickly approaching, some voters are concerned with how the next state government will fix public schools. Some argue the system is in dire need of funding, others say schools need more competition and that the state should support school choice. As KUNR’s Paolo Zialcita reports, the debate over education takes an important role in this election cycle.

Public school advocates are urging lawmakers to oppose any effort to fund Nevada’s school voucher program. 

They’re calling themselves the Coalition to Fight Vouchers. Made up of public education advocacy groups, the coalition met on the steps of the state legislature yesterday, to demand lawmakers put state funds into public schools arguing that Education Savings Accounts hurt students.

Paul Boger

Education Savings Accounts have become an incredibly controversial topic in Nevada since lawmakers approved the voucher program in 2015. So far between 8,000 and 9,000 students have signed-up for the program despite a Nevada Supreme Court decision striking down the state's previous attempts to fund the ESA’s.

Jumping, clapping and waving bright yellow scarves on the steps of the amphitheater at the State Capitol in Carson City, hundreds of children danced to the music of Justin Timberlake as part of a rally in support of Nation School Choice Week.

Nevada's High Court Scrutinizes School Choice Program

Jul 29, 2016
Nevada Supreme Court

The Nevada Supreme Court heard arguments today both for and against the state's sweeping school choice program. 

The high court heard two challenges to Nevada's Education Savings Account program, or ESAs, passed by the Republican-controlled legislature last year.

The ESAs are designed to give parents the state's per-pupil allocation, roughly $5,000, to pay for private school tuition and other qualified programs.

At question in the first challenge is whether the state inappropriately diverted funds from public schools.

Judge Halts Nevada's School Choice Program

Jan 11, 2016
Alexa Ard

A judge has ordered a halt to Nevada's Education Savings Account program, just weeks before the state was to begin issuing money to families.

Carson City District Court Judge James Wilson granted a preliminary injunction on Monday that orders the state treasurer to stop implementing the accounts pending further court review. 

The Republican-backed program allows parents to claim more than $5,000 in state funds each year and use it for qualified education expenses, including religious-based private schools. 

Alexa Ard

 

School choice is a phrase you’ve been hearing a lot lately as Nevada rolls out its education savings account program, which gives parents funds for alternative schooling. Debates over the program are highlighting broader issues in education funding.  To begin with, the Nevada State Plan, which governs school funding in the state, hasn’t actually been updated since 1967.

 

  

Alexa Ard

Although some in the state legislature are selling Nevada’s new education savings account program as a benefit for low-income students, many Washoe County families don't see it as a realistic option for them.

I wanted to see if parents and students at Reno's low-income public schools had heard of the ESA program, and what they thought of it. So I hit the streets just as school was letting out.

“Have you heard about the Education Savings Account program in Nevada?”

“No”

“No, sorry me no.”

“Have you heard about the Education Savings Account program?”

Alexa Ard

Excitement is building around Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) Program, which will give eligible families about $5,000 a year to subsidize their child’s private or home school education. 

But as the application process gets underway, many parents are also voicing a lot of confusion and frustration. For the latest on the situation, Reno Public Radio’s News Director Michelle Bliss reached out to State Treasurer Dan Schwartz whose office is running the program.