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EDITORIAL: An opportunity for Nevada Republicans on school choice

Updated June 21, 2019 - 8:57 am

Thousands of students flocking to apply for a scholarship that allows them to escape their struggling public schools. Opposition from entrenched education interests and Democratic politicians. A successful effort to prevent the program from expanding.

All of the above describe the state of Nevada’s Opportunity Scholarships. But the scenario is playing out elsewhere. Republicans — particularly in Nevada — should seize this fortuitous opening.

This week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed a plan to beef up the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit, which offers private school scholarships to disadvantaged students. The limited program is turning away applicants. The veto is “another sign of growing hostility of Democrats against any kind of school choice,” the Journal observed.

Here in Nevada, those who embrace providing more school choice for parents and their children are all too familiar with the struggle. Democratic lawmakers in Carson City during the 2019 legislative session conducted an all-out assault on the push to expand educational freedom for families and students.

For instance, Democrats killed the dormant Education Savings Account program that would have allowed parents to divert a portion of the state’s per-pupil allocation for their children to private school tuition and other education expenses. They also floated a proposal to outlaw additional charter schools.

Meanwhile, the Nevada’s Opportunity Scholarship program — similar to the Pennsylvania initiative — will now be closed to new applicants. Legislative Republicans sought to broaden the program, which serves about 2,300 students and allows businesses to receive payroll tax credits for donations made to a scholarship fund for low-income kids. But as did their counterparts in Pennsylvania, Nevada Democrats fought the proposal, and Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill limiting enrollment, to the detriment of Nevada families seeking an educational lifeline.

Nevada Republicans have proven less than politically adept in recent years, suffering electoral losses at the local, state and national levels. But the progressive intransigence to school choice provides an opening.

Support for more schooling options is increasing. A poll conducted in 2016 by the Clark County Education Association revealed that a majority of Clark County parents, particularly Hispanics, favored more alternatives to public schools. In 2018, The Atlantic noted that polls show “a majority of Americans now support the expansion of school choice for all families.”

Democrats continue to do the bidding of those wedded to a system that traps children in failing schools. Nevada Republicans musn’t fumble the opportunity to improve their political fortunes by aggressively and unapologetically promoting the value of educational opportunity, choice and hope.

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