(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
My Ed Next debate with Nelson Smith over the Nevada ESA program has spilled over into the pages of the Desert News. Moreover Agent Smith has cloned himself in the form of Nevada Education Association President Reuben Murillo Jr. and the Century Foundation’s Halley Potter!
Oh well the more the merrier! From the story:
Murillo’s chief concern with the ESAs is that they will undermine financial and political support for “zoom schools” and “victory schools,” two programs Nevada launched in recent years targeted at low-income or English as a second-language students. The state commitment to funding such innovations will be undermined by the revenue lost to private schools, he argued.
Ah, well, fewer than 1% of eligible students applied during the first application period, so I’m a bit perplexed why this would have any impact on zoom and/or victory schools-may as well fear the NVESA program drawing down an asteroid strike to Vegas. Next up Halley Potter:
“The biggest losers in this model will likely be the most disadvantaged children, whose families lack the information and resources to access high-quality opportunities,” echoed Halley Potter, a research fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Century Foundation.
The most disadvantaged children, whose families lack information and resources to access high-quality opportunities, have of course already lost big under the status-quo. I’m continually amused by the fantasy version of public education implicit in many critiques of choice, where Platonic Equity prances in fields of beautiful flowers on saddled unicorns. In Nevada “public education” for poor children often entails being crammed into portable buildings with long-term substitute teachers. 20 percent of Nevada FRL kids read proficiently in 4th grade- with hundreds of thousands of more students projected to be on the way.
Nevada is far from a fixed pie. As I told the Desert News:
“People who live back East have never seen the kind of crushing growth that we see here in Nevada and Arizona,” Ladner said. “The reality is that there is plenty of room for growth in public, private and charter schools at the same time.”
Information is something that can be addressed, and the ESA law stands in stark contrast to the public school system by actually gives more money to low-income kids. Wake me up when the rich Anglo kids in Incline Village are getting less than the poor Hispanic kids in Vegas under the district financing system, but this will happen the instant NVESA survives legal challenge, albeit without the unicorns and flowers.
Mind you NVESA is not a magic cure-all for every problem in the Nevada school system, but neither is anything else. NVESA deserves to be judged against the actual context is which it will operate and as a part of an overall reform strategy. If judged fairly and in context, fewer people would volunteer to serve as agents of the system.