Dancing and whirling with yellow scarves to a hit made famous by Justin Timberlake, hundreds of students, teachers, parents and other supporters gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday morning to rally for educational choice in schools.
The rally was part of School Choice Week, proclaimed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and 14 other governors. The event is held annually in January.
Wednesday’s audience at the Capitol included around 300 people, with schools from Fallon, Las Vegas, Reno, and Sparks represented.
Speakers included: former Republican Assemblyman Pat Hickey, now serving as executive director for Charter School Association of Nevada; Lisa Graham Keegan, senior adviser of National School Choice week; and Republican state Sens. Scott Hammond and Ben Kieckhefer.
“This is the civil rights movement of our generation,” Hammond said. “Education choice is going to come and it will be here. Parents and children will be able to choose their desired school. It no longer will take blood, sweat and tears to do it.”
“Universal school choice is policy of the state,” Kieckhefer said. “To provide choices that’s best for our children is a goal that we will accomplish this legislative session.”
During his State of the State speech two weeks ago, Sandoval drew a standing ovation from Republican senators and assembly members when he brought up the $60 million his budget would pump into reviving the school vouchers bill. This would allow parents and students to choose a school regardless of zip code, whether it be public, private, charter, traditional, online or home learning.
However, Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, has already its chances are dim. After the State of the State, he said he doubts Democrats will vote for it, as it could affect the financial and performance resources of public schools.
Without Democrats’ support, the proposal has less than a majority, let alone the two-thirds required in each house to fund it.
According the Nevada Policy Research Institute, at least 8,000 parents signed up for Education Savings Accounts, before it was ruled unconstitutional by the Nevada Supreme Court.
In favor of choice, featured students and parents took their stories to the podium at the rally. Shelby Peterson, of Alpine Academy in Sparks, said her passion, focus, and enjoyment for learning were enhanced when she transferred to a school that provided smaller classes.
Stephanie Black, a stay-at-home mother, included her two sons at her speech to share her experience.
“Nevada is one of the hardest places to home school,” she said. “But without government control, it will be the easiest.”
At least 164 events are planned in the state to promote educational choice throughout the week.