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EDITORIAL: Blame Democrats for closure of private school in low-income area

During the 2023 Legislature, Democrats in Carson City elevated politics above students. That has now contributed to a Catholic school in a low-income part of town closing its doors.

St. Anne Catholic School has been serving students for 70 years. It’s on Maryland Parkway a bit north of Sahara Avenue. It’s the oldest Catholic school in Las Vegas, but not for long. It’s shutting down at the end of this school year.

As KLAS-TV, Channel 8, reported, the Office of the Archdiocese blamed the decision on “continued diminishing enrollment and tremendous financial challenges.” In a letter to parents, leaders said the school experienced a massive drop in enrollment. Some of that was triggered by legislative Democrats starving Nevada’s Opportunity Scholarship program.

The school would have shuttered long ago but for the financial support it received from the Catholic church. In the past decade, it has provided around $5 million to keep the campus running. This isn’t the first Catholic school to close recently. In previous years, St. Joseph and St. Christopher have shut their doors.

“They just keep closing all the ones on the side of town where we need them,” said Suzanne Soto, a parent at the school. “And we don’t have other private schools we can afford.”

It’s understandable Ms. Soto sought an alternative to nearby public schools. Park Elementary School is less than a mile away from St. Anne. Park is a one-star school where fewer than 35 percent of students are proficient in reading. Crestwood Elementary is another one-star school. Just a quarter of students are proficient in reading.

If Democrats weren’t so wedded to the sputtering status quo, this might make them re-examine their opposition to school choice. Last session, they blocked Gov. Joe Lombardo’s plan to expand Opportunity Scholarships. If they hadn’t done so, St. Anne may have remained open.

School choice is most important for low-income families because well-off families already exercise school choice. Those parents can afford private school tuition or they move to a neighborhood with high-quality schools. Low-income families, such as those who live near St. Anne, remain stuck in failure factories. Opportunity Scholarships are a lifeline for them.

On its website, St. Anne lists its tuition and fees at less than $8,000 a student. The price was substantially lower for parishioners or families with multiple children. At struggling Park Elementary, per-pupil expenditures were nearly $14,000 last year. This year, they probably will exceed $16,000. That doesn’t even include funding for facilities.

But more money hasn’t fixed Nevada’s broken education system. It’s why school choice, such as expanding the Opportunity Scholarship program, should be one way forward.

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