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Zeit: The Breakdown: School choice

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Brent Holmes
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Brent Holmes

Will SB302 turn our education system upside-down? These facts give the controversial new law some context

In July, Lake Mead Christian Academy founder and administrator Sue Blakeley sent an angry letter to Nevada legislators. She was upset about SB302’s — the education savings account bill’s — definition of a child whose parents are eligible to redirect the state per-pupil funding to private instruction as one who “has attended a public school for 100 consecutive school days.” (SB302 was passed this year.) The requirement is causing parents who want the funds in January, when they’re supposed to become eligible, to pull their kids out of private school en masse this fall to “bank” their 100 days in public school, according to Blakeley, who said the survival of businesses like hers is at stake. Meanwhile, the ACLU, public school boards and teachers union are pondering legal action based on the constitutionality of funneling state funds to religious schools. Here are some facts behind the brouhaha. Heidi Kyser

$5,200: Current per-pupil funding in Nevada

100: Percent of that amount available to students in poverty

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90: Percent available to others

178: Private schools in Nevada

28,213: Number of students enrolled in private schools statewide; 5.6 percent of all Nevada students enrolled

$8,012: Average tuition at Nevada’s private elementary schools

$10,200: Average tuition at Nevada’s private high schools

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Other states that have school voucher laws: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Vermont.

“The country’s biggest-ever school choice program”: What conservative blog The Daily Caller dubbed Nevada’s law, because of the broad latitude it gives parents.

Who can get accredited to receive the money: “A private school, college or university, program of distance education, tutor or tutoring facility, or the parent of a child”

“A huge gamble”: What Patte Barth from the Center for Public Education calls Nevada’s bill: “No performance thresholds or consequences are defined … so it’s unclear what, if anything, would happen if ESA students don’t get the quality education they’re promised.”

Sources: SB302, Nevada state treasurer, PrviateSchoolReview.com, Nevada Association of School Boards

Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.