Choice with Control
The number one issue that will shape the discussion on education issues this session will be choice. As we have said for some time, the outcome of this debate will determine whether there is gridlock or accomplishment in this session.
Is there a compromise on this issue?
Choice advocates want state money to fund education options of their choice. The Nevada Supreme Court said the 2015 law was constitutional but struck it down because the funding came out of the DSA account. Advocates have drawn a line in the sand on this issue.
Choice opponents say the State needs to continue to invest in public education and not take away money that could go to serve the students in the public education. Opponents have also drawn a line in the sand on this issue.
Can there be education savings accounts (ESA) that do not take away from public education that Democrats can support? Are there restrictions like a means test put on ESAs that Republicans can support? That’s no compromise.
Before any serious discussion about more money going into the private sector to give parents ‘choice’ for their kid’s education then there has to be a serious investment in the adequacy issue for Nevada’s public schools. How do we define what is adequate? Simple- students have unique needs that require additional resources. Those needs are often referred to as ‘weights’. The passage of AB 394 requires that a weighted student funding formula be in place for students with special education (SPED) needs, poverty (FRL), English language learners (ELL), and gifted and talented students (GATE).
In 2013 and 2015 the Nevada Legislature under Governor Sandoval’s leadership began to address the adequacy issue by adopting categorical funding for specific programs that addressed the unique needs of students. Programs like Zoom, Victory etc were passed. They served a good ‘first step’ in the right direction. However not all students of need benefit from these programs. If you are an ELL student but not in a Zoom school you will not have access to additional resources and programs to ensure you have an adequate education. To address that problem AB 394 said that money must follow the student. Accordingly, it is now time to transition categorical programs to a weighted funding formula.
With the reorganization of the Clark County School District from a top down centralized bureaucracy to a decentralized education delivery system where the hub of delivery is the school, we are now at the point where there is ‘real choice’ but with ‘control’ for parents to be involved in the planning and budgeting to ensure their kids needs are being met. Parents working with teachers, the principal, support staff, and students are in control of their children’s education. There is nowhere in this country where this model is taking place on the scale it is in Clark.
Any discussion about choice in this session has to start and end with adopting a weighted funding formula for all students in Nevada.