Chuck Muth: Dude, where’s my voucher? | NevadaAppeal.com
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Chuck Muth: Dude, where’s my voucher?

Chuck Muth
For the Nevada Appeal

In his recent statewide address on the budget, Gov. Brian Sandoval promised to put the $274 million windfall budget surplus into Nevada’s failed education system. He also promised to establish “triggers” so that if the economy continues to improve, future surplus windfalls will also be directed to Nevada’s failed education system.

In addition, the governor specifically directed that the budget surplus money go to the failed class-size reduction program, the failed – or at least unproven – all-day kindergarten program, and non-academic extracurricular activities.

He also said this:

“I know in my heart that education isn’t just about the money. What matters most is not how much we spend on education, but how well we spend it. To me, education is not about ‘the system.’ It’s about the students, the teachers and the learning environment they cultivate and share.”

The governor went on to decry “the failing culture that has become all too pervasive” in our public schools, noting that “thousands of our students under-perform in virtually every academic subject on every possible test.”

As such, the governor again advocated for his public school reforms, including performance bonuses for exceptional teachers, greater local control, and an end to the “last in, first out” rule – which means school districts have to layoff the last teacher hired first, even if the last teacher hired is clearly superior to another teacher who was hired earlier but is stinking up the classroom.

All fine and good. But what happened to school vouchers?

Indeed, the governor called for moving “decisions back to the classroom where they belong” instead of moving decisions back to where they really belong … with parents, especially low- and middle-income parents who lack the financial wherewithal to exercise the same school choices as wealthy parents.

I hope I’m wrong, but it appears Gov. Sandoval has abandoned school vouchers, at least for now, and is instead focused on putting new lipstick on the public school pig. For the sake of our children and our future, I hope that’s not true.

Yes, I realize that busting the government monopoly over education through school vouchers and tax credits is hard work politically, but it’s not impossible. In fact, just this week Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law “a school voucher program that has the broadest eligibility of any voucher program in the nation.”

As Robert Enlow of the Foundation for Educational Choice notes, Daniels’ signature on the bill “sends an important message to families across the country: meaningful education reform is possible. We should never give up fighting for access to high-quality educational options for every child, regardless of family income or where they live.”

Indeed. Let’s not give up on vouchers in Nevada. It’s time to give choice a chance.

• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach. He may be reached at chuck@citizenoutreach.com.