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NV Public-School Advocates Speak Out after School-Choice Rallies

Public-education advocates are speaking out after supporters of school vouchers rallied across the state on Wednesday. (melpomenem/iStockphotos)
Public-education advocates are speaking out after supporters of school vouchers rallied across the state on Wednesday. (melpomenem/iStockphotos)
January 26, 2017

LAS VEGAS -- Supporters of public education are speaking out after hundreds rallied for school vouchers in Las Vegas and Carson City on Wednesday.

Every January, supporters of school vouchers celebrate what they call School Choice Week, with events across the country. In Nevada they are pressing the Legislature to spend $60 million to offset costs of private school in Educational Savings Accounts, to the tune of about $5,100 per student.

Amy Rose, legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, argued that taxpayer money should not go to private schools that cherry pick certain students.

"So many of these schools that are eligible for ESAs in Nevada discriminate on the basis of gender identity, on sexual orientation, religion, on the basis of disability, and that's not what our public dollars should go to fund,” Rose said.

Recently a judge upheld Nevada's Educational Savings Accounts, but found that the funding mechanism was unconstitutional because it took money from the public school budget.

Rose said the idea of "school choice" may sound good, but private schools often cost more than the amount of the voucher - so few low-income families would be able to afford to enroll.

"The people who are applying for this program are from wealthy zip codes with very good schools,” she said. "So this isn't going to support students in disadvantaged areas. This is a program that's really just ending up being welfare for the wealthy."

Voucher opponents also argue that private schools are more likely to pick students who already are excelling, leaving the public school with less money to educate the students who remain.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV