A startling new survey conducted by the Nevada Policy Research Institute was released this week showing that just 11 percent of Nevada residents, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal story, "said they would send their children to public school if they had the freedom to choose any available option." Just 11 percent. Barely one in 10.
What's so startling here is that one of the biggest obstacles to school choice initiatives in recent years has been parents who are in denial about the quality of the public school education their own kids receive. That's because no parent wants to think they're neglecting their children. So they often talk themselves into believing it's only the inner-city schools that suck eggs, not their middle-class neighborhood school.
It appears the veil of denial is starting to lift from their eyes.
Of course, public school apologists will squawk and kvetch over this survey. As usual, they'll do their Officer Barbrady ("South Park") imitation: "Nothing to see here. Move along." And they'll tell us again and again and again, ad nauseum, that if we just pay teachers more money everything will be OK. Which is a load of crud. That's like saying if you just pay the basketball coach more money the team will win more games. The argument is absurd on its face.
Responding to the survey results, Nevada Assembly Education Chairwoman Bonnie Parnell reportedly said she "believes there is overwhelming support for Nevada's public education system among parents." Leave it to a former public school teacher to argue that 11 percent is "overwhelming support." Must be that new fuzzy math.
Ms. Parnell did admit, however, that a lot of public schools are inadequate and don't provide for the needs of many students. But the only "choice" she claims to favor is charter schools, which are still a part of the government school monopoly. It's like saying you can have any color you want for your new car - as long as it's black.
Also pooh-poohing the survey was public school Superintendent Keith Reault, who claimed support for voucher schools has not been demonstrated in the Legislature. Au contraire. In fact, Sen. Barbara Cegavske sponsored a school choice bill last session that would have provided vouchers for special needs and autistic children. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate before Democrats killed it in the Assembly by not even allowing a hearing on the bill, let alone a vote.
Education is important. Critically important. Then again, so is eating. More so. But we don't let government bureaucrats run all our grocery stores, do we? So why give them a monopoly over our schools? Especially considering the lousy job they're doing at it.
Suzy Sunshine education bureaucrats, legislative apologists and teachers union shills can continue blowing smoke up our skirts 'til the cows come home. But when you get right down to it, it's not whether I'm right or Keith Reault is right or Bonnie Parnell is right or Barbara Cegavske is right. It's what the PARENT thinks is right. And right now, what they think doesn't mean beans. The government tells them where they have to send their kids to school, like it or not. If parents think they'd rather send their kids elsewhere, the government tells them to pound sand. And that's just plain wrong. Indeed, it's un-American.
It's time to give choice a chance.
• 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.