The ed-heads over at the Nevada State Board of Education are conspiring to commit a crime tonight. Well, it's not officially a crime. But it ought to be. They've ordered a "hit" on the state's charter schools. And the trigger-man is, believe it or not, the chair(wo)man of the state's Sub-committee on Charter Schools, Cindy Reid.
Reid will be presenting a proposal for "a moratorium on approving all future state-sponsored charter school applications" at the board meeting in Las Vegas tonight. And while it might surprise some that the ed-head in charge of the state's charter schools would be leading the charge to snuff 'em out, consider the fact that she's a former unionized public school teacher and Sen. Harry Reid's daughter-in-law. 'Nuff said.
The proposed moratorium wouldn't just kill all new charter schools in Nevada; it also would prohibit expansion of existing charter schools. It would block, for example, the new Connections Academy charter school from expanding its current charter to include grades K-3. You see, when the ed-heads reluctantly approved Connections Academy for a charter last year, they only allowed them to start with the fourth grade, purportedly because they didn't believe Connections Academy could adequately provide the foundational education desired in the all-important K-3 formative years.
As if the "regular" public schools do.
Why, just yesterday Steve Mulvenon, communications director for the Washoe County School District, was jumping for joy over the fact that now "only" 40 percent of his fourth-graders can't read at grade level instead of 41 percent. "It looks like fourth graders across the country didn't see as much improvement (as) our fourth graders did," Mulvenon effused with cork-popping pride to the Reno Gazette-Journal. Somehow I'm under-whelmed.
But make no mistake, Cindy Reid isn't the only ed-head out for charter school blood. Conspiring to whack even this tiny vestige of parental school choice is Cliff Ferry, president of the state education board, and Keith Rheault, state superintendent of public instruction. "My concern is that we will have too many charters to give them proper oversight," Ferry told the Las Vegas Sun this week. "One of the reasons Clark County gave for dropping (charter school) sponsorship was that they didn't have enough staff," chimed in Rheault. "We have even less."
Oh, puh-leeaase. Nevada currently only has 22 charter schools. The state sponsors just five.
Neighboring Arizona has 368.
This isn't about staffing or money. It's about choking off school choice. The motivation here is as plain as day. Nevertheless, the Sun reports that "state and local officials say their reluctance to sponsor charter schools is motivated solely by fiscal realities, rather than opposition to alternatives to public schools." Alas, no report on whether the officials made those statements with a straight face or whether their noses grew 12 inches immediately thereafter.
The fact is parents WANT to send their kids to charter schools. Charter schools are in demand. "Regular" public schools aren't. Perhaps the ed-heads should focus more oversight on the "regular" public schools, and leave the charter schools alone. Don't kill charters, kill this moratorium.
• Chuck Muth, of Carson City, is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a political blogger. Read his views Fridays on the Appeal Opinion page or visit www.muthstruths.com.