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Town Hall on School Vouchers in Las Vegas

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A town-hall meeting Saturday in Las Vegas on school vouchers will spotlight research that shows students in public schools excel in math compared with their private-school counterparts. (cohdra/morguefile)
A town-hall meeting Saturday in Las Vegas on school vouchers will spotlight research that shows students in public schools excel in math compared with their private-school counterparts. (cohdra/morguefile)
March 31, 2017

LAS VEGAS - Opponents of school vouchers are holding a town-hall meeting on Saturday in Las Vegas to spotlight research that says public schools outperform private schools on some measures.

University of Illinois professors Christopher and Sarah Lubienski will be the featured speakers. Sarah Lubienski, author of the book, "The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools," said that while private schools tend to have slightly higher test scores overall, their advantage disappears when comparing students from similar backgrounds. She said that has implications for the school voucher debate.

"People tend to assume that private schools are better, so if we give them the choice to go to private schools, that that will increase the education level of students," she said. "Our research just suggests that's not true."

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed a system of Educational Savings Accounts, but the state Supreme Court ruled that it's unconstitutional to divert taxpayer money to private schools. However, a workaround bill has just been proposed to fund the voucher program by pulling money from a tax on marijuana.

Lubienski said her research shows that when academic performance is compared for kids at the same socioeconomic level, public school students' math scores are higher than in private schools.

"Private schools have a lot of autonomy to hire who they want and to teach however they want," she said, "and although that might sound like a good thing, it's allowed them to circumvent the latest rounds of curriculum and instructional reforms."

Lubienski also found that many private schools stick to traditional classroom models, with students sitting in rows and completing worksheets, whereas some public schools are moving toward collaborative learning that emphasizes reasoning over memorization.

The town hall will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Clark County Library.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV