Did She Really Say That?

“We need to investigate the assumption that…parents are in a position to make good choices about the educational [sic]…we know that not all parents make rational choices.” 

-- Sylvia Lazos, Professor of Law, UNLV, testifying at the Nevada State Treasurer’s Workshop on Education Savings Accounts 17 July 2015.

Let’s see.  Who’s making the education decisions now? 

It’s obviously not the parents.  But maybe it’s time for to give parents a say in helping our kids get the education they deserve, including how education dollars are spent. 

Parents are taking charge of their children’s education in greater numbers than ever.  The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that homeschooling is up 44% in 2014-2015 compared to the prior two years in Clark County, the nation’s fifth-largest school district.  Parents of nearly 6,000 students have already signed up for Education Savings Accounts (ESA) which, like Health Savings Accounts, will give parents more control over their children’s education.   

Maybe that increased interest by parents is because of headlines like…

 “Nevada Earns a D on State Report Card, Ranks 51st in Nation”

That was the national news last January upon release of the annual Quality Counts survey in US education, ranking states in nearly 40 different indicators through high-school graduation. 

Nevada is dead last.  Behind Washington, DC.

But the bad news doesn’t stop at graduation.  HALF of Nevada graduates require remedial math, or English, or both AFTER they graduate from the #51-ranked state in the nation.  And those are just the kids going to college; we don’t know what remediation rates would be for those who drop out or don’t pursue college.  Or their proficiency in science or any subject other than English and math

So here’s an idea:  instead of congratulating ourselves for incremental increases in graduation rates (and remediation), state educators should adopt a laser-like focus on ensuring a remediation rate of ZERO if the diplomas are to have any value for college or career.  That means proving subject competence at every step of the way and not pushing core competencies on to colleges or future employers.  What child cares if the district knows “Every child, by name and face, to graduation” (the Washoe County School District motto) if they have a 50-50 chance of needing bonehead English or math in college?

Now fast-forward a year since the first ESA workshop.  Ms. Lazos – who thinks parents can’t make better choices for their kids than the government can -- is now policy director at Educate Nevada Now, a program launched by The Rogers Foundation to advocate for improved public education. Educate Nevada Now also happens to be a backer of the case against ESAs which appears before the Supreme Court this week. 

Why does Educate Nevada Now oppose ESA’s?  In a May 8 interview with the Review Journal, Ms. Lazos stated wealthy students and poor students have equal access to vouchers and that has not been done anywhere else in the country. 

Wait.  That sounds like a good thing.

“Equity and opportunity … that’s not what’s happening when you open it up to everybody,” she said. “I think that is what really makes this program … so threatening to public education.”

Did she really say that?  We are tying up State Supreme Court time on arguments like this when we are the academic rock bottom in the nation?

Any of you parents and teachers who feel like you can make better decisions for your kids than those who have brought us to #51 is encouraged to show your support for the Education Savings Accounts.  You know, the one offering “equity and opportunity” for all Nevada students.

Want some ways to show your support? 

  1. Sign the petition in support of the ESA.

  2. Take a field trip and attend the oral arguments presented before the Nevada Supreme Court this Friday, July 29, at 10AM in Las Vegas.

  3. Attend the rally in Las Vegas before the oral arguments.

  4. Watch it via live feed in Carson City or at home by clicking the “live video” link here.

  5. Inform yourself more about this program hailed as the best of its kind in the nation.

  6. Sign your child up to become an opt-in student and receive an Education Savings Account during the next open enrollment program (August 1-September 30). 

As we are dead last in the nation academically, we have nowhere to go but up. 

______________________________

Kathryn Kelly, DrPH MEd, is a parent, science teacher, and Executive Director of I·School in Reno and Incline Village. She believes ESAs are an important path to providing parent-directed, competency-based education for all, with zero remediation rates.  She can be reached at 775-831-2423 or kkelly@ischools.us.