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COMMENTARY: School systems can better support parents through choice

As a single mom, I know the amount of commitment, dedication and energy it takes to raise a child. The herculean endeavor of preparing my child for life is primarily my job as a parent, but it’s better done with a strong educational support system. School choice is our best hope for that — it allows parents to choose a school with a mission that supports their child’s learning and the values they want to raise their child in.

Why aren’t we offering this to every Nevada family?

Not all Nevada schools equally help a parent to protect and provide for their child — some schools are simply failing to educate our children adequately. Studies show that, even prior to COVID-19 lockdowns, test scores in Nevada have lagged behind the national averages for years, even as the national averages themselves have fallen.

Sometimes families need school choice to opt out of a failing school, but sometimes they need it just to find a better fit for their child’s learning needs or family values. As someone whose daughter attends a Christian private school, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that the opportunity scholarship she received allows her to learn in a close-knit community that supports the faith and morals we practice at home.

While I am thankful for my daughter’s experience with the opportunity scholarship, I question why school choice can’t be the status quo for all Nevada families. Isn’t every single child, regardless of race, creed or income, deserving of a valuable education? Shouldn’t every parent be able to choose a school that’s truly a support system to them in the work of educating their child? In fact, isn’t this what the education system is supposed to be all about?

Some parents may want their children to attend public schools, trade schools, specialized schools, online schools or other independent schools consistent with their own personal ethics and values. School choice gives all families the same opportunities and an equal chance for children to get ahead. Through school choice, families experience a real, daily support system for raising their child, rather than the obstacles resulting from a poor school fit.

The repercussions of emergency remote learning has only exacerbated the need for choice. On top of our state’s already lagging scores, students nationwide fell an average of five extra months behind in math and four months behind in reading by the end of last school year. More than ever, parents and children need all the support they can get to overcome learning setbacks.

The time has come to refresh our outdated education funding system. Expanding school choice through more flexible education funding such as education savings accounts or expanded tax credit scholarships would help thousands of Nevada parents whose children are struggling with behavioral issues, facing bullies in their current school or just stuck in an academic program that doesn’t meet their needs.

This National School Choice Week (Jan. 23-29), I’m grateful that choice has allowed me to find an incredible learning environment for my child, and I wish that for every parent. It truly takes a village to raise a child, and school choice allows for that “village partnership,” solidifying and deepening relationships between schools and families. Nevada could desperately use that.

Erin McAloon lives in Las Vegas.

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