Chuck Muth: Education chief’s Chicken Little act doesn’t fly
The Associated Press reported this week that Nevada state schools Superintendent Keith Rheault told the state Board of Education last week that “Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval’s campaign promise to establish a school voucher program to help parents send their children to private schools … would cost the cash-strapped state more than $100 million.”
First of all, neither Rheault nor anyone else outside of Sandoval’s inner circle have seen the details of Sandoval’s plan yet, so he has absolutely no idea whatsoever what’s in it.
Secondly, Rheault’s hypothesis is that there are currently 20,000 students attending private schools in Nevada and that if each of them received a voucher in the amount of $5,200 – a figure he pulled out of thin air – that would cost the government $100 million extra in tuition which taxpaying parents are presently shelling out of their own pockets.
As to that point, the first point is … so what? Those parents are paying taxes to fund public education in Nevada just like the rest of us, so why shouldn’t they receive vouchers? And the second point is, well, it’s actually the same as the original point: Mr. Rheault has no idea what Sandoval’s plan is, so why is he already performing this Chicken Little routine?
Mr. Rheault claims “he based his estimates on past proposals from the Legislature.” Really?
Had he reviewed Assemblyman Ed Goedhart’s (R-Amargosa Valley) Education Tax Rebate proposal from the last session, he’d know that concerns regarding current private school students receiving vouchers had already been addressed and alleviated.
First, Goedhart’s EIEIO (Excellence in Education and Increased Opportunities Act) tax rebates would be means tested, so the “rich” would not get a full voucher. Secondly, the EIEIO proposal would allow the Legislature to phase in current private school students over a period of five to six years.
So not only would the “rich” not get a full voucher, they wouldn’t get any tuition assistance whatsoever for a fairly extended period of time.
Mr. Rheault also claims the Sandoval voucher plan (which he hasn’t seen) could cost $1 million a year to administer – another figure pulled from thin air. But any administrative costs necessary to implement such a program would be paid for by the difference between what the public schools currently receive per pupil and the lesser amount parents would receive from the vouchers.
So much for that argument.
Here’s the bottom line: Vouchers would empower parents and instill some much-needed competition in public education. As such, they are a serious threat to pencil-pushing public school bureaucrats. So anything negative Mr. Rheault says about them should be taken with, at most, a grain of salt.
• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a limited-government public policy organization.