The Best School Choice Program in America
Universal health care, universal broadband, universal daycare—attaching the word “universal” to a government service connotes inefficiency, lack of choice, and high costs. But the opposite is true when it comes to universal school choice.
Yesterday, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill that will give all parents in the state a choice in how public dollars are spent on their child’s education. Nevada is the fifth state to adopt an Education Savings Account (ESA) program. An ESA allows parents to direct public funds toward multiple uses including private tuition, online learning, and higher education expenses. Nevada’s program would be different than other programs around the country in that it is not limited to students with disabilities.
To be eligible, a student must have been enrolled in a traditional public or charter school for at least 100 consecutive days. Students with special needs will receive 100 percent of what the state pays for their education, and students without will receive no less than 90 percent—about $5,000 each. Parents can direct funds toward religious private schools and even homeschooling.
Despite some contention concerning the state’s Blaine Amendment, the Silver State’s one-of-a-kind ESA program will not only make education customizable for any Nevada student, but it also will serve as an example to other states in how to reinvent public education.
As Distinguished Fellow James Shuls wrote in his essay on redefining public education in Missouri:
Most people have come to understand a very clear meaning of public education. They think of it as a system of education whereby students are assigned to schools based on where they live. They think of these schools as serving all students in their residential attendance zone. . . . It is time for Missourians to move past our narrow definition of public education. It is time we accept the reality that students can, and do, receive a quality public education from schools that are not publicly operated.
For more details on Nevada’s program, check out this blog post by the Friedman Foundation.