June 10, 2015

Nevada enacts landmark universal school choice program

By Christina M. Martin Attorney

Last week Nevada became the first state to create universal education savings accounts. Unlike education savings account programs in other states, Nevada will offer these accounts for every K-12 student who chooses an education outside of his or her local or public school. Under Nevada’s program, the state will take 90-100% of the per-pupil funding ( $5,100 –5,700 per year) that would otherwise be spent to educate the child in public school, and instead place that money in the child’s education savings account (ESA). The parent may then use that money to pay for that child’s private school tuition, tutoring, special education services, books, curriculum, online education programs, or even dual-credit college courses. Unspent money will roll over to subsequent years – until graduation.

High School Graduates by Chris Moncus licensed under Wikimedia Creative Commons

Unlike vouchers, this program allows parents to better tailor their child’s education to his or her needs. For example, a highschool student could use the funds to attend a private school class, take an online courses, hire a math tutor, and attend a community college course all at the same time. And because the rollover aspect of the program ends the “use it or lose it” mentality, families can begin to think more strategically about how to best educate their child not just for one year, but for the child’s entire K-12 stint.

As school choice fans know, studies have time and again proven that vouchers improve student outcomes – not just for the recipients of vouchers, but also for kids in public schools. That’s because school choice gives parents a way to hold schools accountable: improve or lose the funding for my child. As if that were not enough, critics need not fear the program’s financial impact on public schools, because the per-pupil funding accounts for only about half of what Nevada’s taxpayers pay to educate a child in public school. Public schools in Nevada spend on average about $10,000 per child every year. Thus Nevada’s public schools could have a windfall for their students and even taxpayers could potentially benefit from education savings accounts.

What to read next