Chuck Muth: Disruptive ESA’s could hasten failure factory exodus

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They’re called “disruptive innovations.”

A disruptive innovation is something unexpected that disrupts an existing product or service market and creates a new one, complete with an entire new batch of customers and usually lower prices. “Ride-sharing,” which has totally disrupted the moribund taxicab industry, is a perfect example.

But Nevada’s Republican-led 2015 Legislature could be responsible for the most significant and meaningful disruptive innovation on the planet today, thanks to passage of a bill creating Education Savings Accounts (ESA’s), which are an expanded variant of school vouchers worth around $5,000 per year per student.

Nevada’s first-in-the-nation universal ESA program holds out the potential for disrupting and breaking the stranglehold the teachers union and government bureaucrats have on the failure factory public schools our kids have been trapped in for decades. And all manner of low- and middle-income families will now have both the right to send their kids to a private school, as well as the financial means to exercise that right.

Of course, Republicans never blow an opportunity to blow an opportunity, so it’s no surprise that they blemished the bill with this: “A parent may not establish an education savings account for a child who will be homeschooled.”

Go figure. The ultimate in “parental involvement” is specifically banned from participating in the program despite being taxpayers and incurring considerable out-of-pocket costs for books, curriculum, tutoring, etc.

But hold on there, Bubba-looey. Although a “homeschooled” child isn’t eligible for an ESA, an “opt-in” child is!

“What the heck is an ‘opt-in child?” I hear you ask.

An opt-in child is a student not enrolled in either a public or private school “who receives all of a portion of his or her instruction from a participating entity.” And get this: The definition of “participating entity” includes “a parent” who fills out a government notification form.

In other words, um, homeschooling.

But there’s a catch. Homeschoolers — sorry, opt-inschoolers — as well as kids already enrolled in a private school, are not eligible for an ESA until they serve a 100-day penalty in public school purgatory.

That’s right, these taxpaying Nevadans are required to yank their kids out of their present private school or homeschool and enroll them in a public school for an entire semester in order to qualify for the ESA. A ridiculous and totally unwarranted inconvenience, but one many parents will surely suffer in return for the financial school choice support they so richly deserve.

Combined with the number of parents of public school kids who will now be able to afford private school tuition — and prices will surely come down — ESAs hold out the potential for dramatically disrupting the current government monopoly over education and creating a totally unexpected new market.

Let the failure factory exodus begin!

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach and the publisher of

He personally blogs at


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