A bill passed in the Nevada Senate offers $5,000 to any family who moves their child from a public school to a private or home school setting.
In order to qualify, a student must have attended public school for at least 100 days. Once a written agreement between the parents and the Nevada State Treasurer is inked, the money is then placed in an education savings account created by each parent. Any money placed in that account must be spent on tuition, class fees, textbooks, tutoring or Advanced Placement tests, college entry exams, or any standardized tests required by the state.
The spending account would be frozen by the state "during any break in the school year, including any break between school years." In addition, an audit would be performed on the account at random times throughout the year, writes Trevon Milliard for The Reno Gazette-Journal.
Senate Bill 302, an example of a shift toward school choice in the United States, offers families in the state control over how to use taxpayer money towards the education of the their children. Parents would have the option of leaving their child in the public school system or using the state's education funding toward paying for any type of private schooling option, including religious schools or homeschooling.
The bill would offer special education students and those living in poverty 100% of the average state funding, while all other students would receive 90%. Based on the current spending for students in the state, the average family who chose to put their child into private education would receive around $5,000.
While 11 Republicans within the Senate approved the bill, 8 Democrats stood opposed, arguing that the measure undermines public education. According to Senator Joyce Woodhouse, the move would take money away that could be used to improve the public education system.
"This is a ploy by those who deplore public education and want to destroy it," said Sen. Pat Spearman, D-Las Vegas. "We might as well open the door and throw the money out the window."
However, Senator Ben Kieckhefer countered by suggesting the bill supports those students who would otherwise be stuck in failing public schools. The public education system in the state has continuously been ranked as one of the worst in the nation.
"I attended the public schools in our state," said Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, listing the Las Vegas schools he attended from elementary through high school. "Our inability to get where we need to be in the quality of our public schools mandates that we do this."
While the bill has already made it through the Senate, it still needs to pass the Assembly and receive Governor Brian Sandoval's signature before it becomes law.