There seems to be one issue Nevadans can all agree on to some degree – education needs to improve, the health of our state depends on it. However, how to improve education is an issue that has been hotly debated and those debates tend to fall along party lines.
You may recall in 2015 the Legislature passed, and then-Governor Brian Sandoval signed, Senate Bill 302, which created a program for education savings account (ESA) vouchers. The bill was designed to implement a “super voucher” system that opened up education choices for parents. Under the voucher program, eligible students would have had access to over $5,000 each year to use at the school of their choice. The bill was challenged in court and a ruling determined that, while the program itself was constitutional, the funding mechanism would have to change.
By 2017, the Legislature had transferred from a Republican to a Democrat majority and a proposed bill to implement a new funding mechanism for ESA vouchers never came to fruition. Then, in 2019, as part of a bill to expand the commerce tax, Senate Democrats added a provision that killed the ESA voucher program. While that bill was later declared unconstitutional in court for not passing by a two-thirds majority, the ESA bill remained dead in the water.
However, this issue is far from settled. Vouchers are receiving new life this year after a political action committee (PAC) called Education Freedom for Nevada filed initiatives to create “education freedom accounts”. These accounts would allow parents to access state funds to pay for education options apart from the public school system. If enough signatures are gathered, Nevadans will have the opportunity to vote on the issue.
A mere three weeks after those initiatives were filed, The Rogers Foundation and their PAC arm, Educate Nevada Now (ENN), stepped back on to the scene. Led by Beverly Rogers, the foundation was behind the obliteration of the 2015 ESA bill. In fact, Rogers has been tenacious in keeping education choice out of the hands of parents and argues the proposed program would divert funding from the public school system and allow for discrimination of students.
In a statement, Rogers said, “Let’s be clear, we are not talking about school choice, we’re talking about the school’s choice to reject students because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, religious affiliation or lack thereof, or because they need additional resources to succeed.” Rogers believes that alternative ways to approach education funding will ultimately lead to student discrimination because not every student would be eligible for every school. But, ineligibility does not equal discrimination.
Rogers is so convinced she’s right, she and ENN are actively working to restrict parent’s choices over education and take away the voice of the people. It seems to me that the foundation is perpetuating the very discrimination they claim to want to stop. By restricting parent’s choice, Nevada students have less access and fewer opportunities and resources. Nevada’s school districts are simply too overburdened to provide these opportunities. Why would anyone try to restrict parents and students from better options? Can they honestly say our school districts have been so successful they don’t need relief?
CALL TO ACTION: This issue is simple, as Nevada continues to receive bad grades, school choice can provide innovative solutions to serious education problems. Taking choice away from parents and having a select few at a foundation tell us the best approach to education is not inclusive. Keep an eye on these issues as you head to the ballot box. Look beyond the political noise and let’s do what’s right for Nevada.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
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