Nevadans have deep concerns about our state’s public school system overall, and see school choice as a valuable way for their children to receive a high-quality education while we work to improve our public schools.
A new poll, published by Nevada Action for School Options and EdChoice based on scientific polling of 1,200 Nevada adults, offers important insights about how Nevadans feel about their current schooling options, and what they want for their own children.
Nearly half of all adults said that if financial cost and transportation were of no concern, they would select private schooling to obtain the best education for their child. This compares with 28 percent who would prefer a traditional public school, and 22 percent who would prefer a public charter school.
Only 4 percent of Nevada K-12 students are enrolled in private school today, and 10 percent are enrolled in charter schools, although many families seeking to take advantage of these opportunities face long waiting lists.
More than two-thirds of Nevadans support the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program, which offers scholarships to lower-income families to attend private schools. The program, which has served some 3,000 students across the state, is in danger of losing substantial funding as lawmakers consider other education priorities.
While still bogged down in a political quagmire, 80 percent, of parents with school-aged children, agree that educational choice programs like the currently unfunded Education Savings Accounts program, should be available to all families.
Support for educational choice was not just limited to private school choice, Nevada’s public charter schools also displayed strong support, favored by 71 percent of all Nevadans, and 80 percent of parents of school-aged children.
The overall concerns registered about Nevada’s public schools come well grounded for solid reasons. Overall, less than one-third of Nevada’s fourth grade students are performing at grade level proficiency in reading, an established indicator for future success.
At least as alarming is the reality that two out of five of these students’ classmates show reading skills considered “below basic.”
On another crucial indicator, eighth grade math, students scored at very similar rates in both categories. These findings came on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal program known as “The Nation’s Report Card.”
These students outcomes were very much on the minds of Nevada education leaders like Governor Sandoval’s Superintendent for Public Instruction Steve Canavero when they launched the “New Nevada Plan” to set Nevada schools on a course to be the fastest-improving in the nation. Indeed, some that important progress seems well underway, and will hopefully remain on track.
As the growth of Nevada’s student population continues its rapid trajectory, we are seeing our public school system showing real strains from these pressures. Schools of choice also represent a bargain for taxpayers in numerous ways, and as this latest poll demonstrates, remain extremely popular with all Nevadans, and especially within those populations most underserved by their current school district options.
Don Soifer is president if Nevada Action for School Options, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to supporting the timely growth of diverse choices of high-quality, rich and personalized educational opportunities for all Nevada students