I have had the honor of serving as a public school teacher, an Assembly representative, and now as Clark County Commissioner. In all of these roles, I have seen firsthand how public education benefits our citizens and our community. It may sound trite to some, but it is still true that teachers transform lives on a daily basis. I know that our public education system is the way forward to full employment.
Our business community has come to understand that public education is the most important public investment for a region that wants to keep growing and producing quality jobs.
For over 460,000 children in Nevada, public education was and is the great equalizer. Public education bridges the social class gap. It was education that gave a young person like me access to a profession, entrée into the middle class, and a political career.
So why are we jeopardizing our collective future with schemes like ESA vouchers, which undermine public education?
The voucher law will take public taxpayer dollars to subsidize religious and private education. We need to remember that private schools are not held to the same accountability and performance standards as Nevada’s public and charter schools. They don’t have to hire qualified teachers; they do not have to teach a standard curriculum; and if a private or religious school wants to reject science, they are entitled to do so by law. These schools can turn away kids who are deemed not to “fit in,” and statistics show that these are often children with disabilities, those from different cultures who may not speak English, or simply those who are behind in school.
Legislators chose to call Nevada’s voucher program “Education Savings Accounts,” but let’s call it what it is — vouchers which steal public tax dollars to give away to corporations and private religious groups, with little or no accountability. We are seeing a proliferation of “for-profit” private school operators, who are trying to attract parents and their $5,000 vouchers with glossy brochures and advertisements, but no track record or even a business plan.
Building quality public schools requires the collective and concentrated effort and commitment of dedicated public officials, school administrators, our PTAs, teachers, business and community leaders, and families.
The drafters of the Nevada Constitution in 1864 believed that creating a robust public education system, adequately funded with public dollars, would be the way to lift up all Nevada citizens and would create the economic foundation for a growing state. One hundred and fifty years later, our Founders’ vision is still wise and is the reason that the Nevada Supreme Court should strike down the ESA voucher scheme as unconstitutional.
Chris Giunchigliani is a Clark County Commissioner.