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Opponents Slam NV School Vouchers as Legislature Winds Down

If Senate Bill 506 passes, Nevada would become the 13th state (plus Washington, D.C.) to institute a school voucher program. (jdurham/morguefile)
If Senate Bill 506 passes, Nevada would become the 13th state (plus Washington, D.C.) to institute a school voucher program. (jdurham/morguefile)
May 24, 2017

CARSON CITY, Nev. - As the end of the Nevada legislative session approaches, Gov. Brian Sandoval's school voucher bill is the subject of intense lobbying.

Senate Bill 506 would set aside $60 million to fund educational savings accounts, giving families who apply up to $5,900 a year to send their child to a private school. Ruben Murillo, president of the Nevada State Education Association, said the state's public schools could really use those funds.

"If he has an extra $60 million in the general fund to spend on vouchers," Murillo said, "why doesn't he move that money over to the education account to help fund the weighted-funding formula, Zoom schools, peer-assistance review or classroom size reduction? There's a lot of different ways he could use that money."

Supporters of school vouchers have said they give families greater freedom to choose a school that best meets their child's needs. Opponents have pointed out that the average private-school tuition is much greater than the proposed voucher amount, making it unaffordable for many low-income families - even with the extra help.

Murillo said the NSEA is running a campaign to let legislators know that many of their constituents oppose using public money to boost attendance at private schools, with vouchers that only would serve about 5,000 students per year.

"The vouchers only really impact a small number of students," he said, "as compared to the greater majority of students who are left in public schools."

As written, the bill doesn't require applicants to demonstrate financial need, but that could change in final negotiations - nor does it place limits on how the charter schools would spend the taxpayer dollars.

The text of SB 506 is online at leg.state.nv.us.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV