EDITORIAL: Students on the move need school choice

If you want to succeed in school, sticking with one campus long enough to figure out where your classrooms are is a good place to start.

Unfortunately, that’s not a reality for many Clark County School District students. As the Review-Journal’s Amelia Pak-Harvey recently reported, local students move schools a lot. District students are roughly twice as likely as their peers in New York City or Los Angeles to move during the school year.

The district’s transiency rate, which is the percentage of students who finish the year at a different school than the one at which they started, is a staggering 25.4 percent. Desert Pines High School’s rate is a whopping 38.7 percent. That’s a significant drag on achievement.

Ms. Pak-Harvey notes that a 2012 study by the American Sociological Association found that changing schools equates to losing out on two weeks of instruction. These losses can compound over time, especially because it’s often low-income families who are moving to take advantage of move-in specials at apartments.

While student transiency isn’t the district’s fault, there’s no denying it’s a damper on student progress. It’s also a problem that won’t be solved by pouring more money into the system.

In fact, higher and higher taxes likely make the problem worse. In the past 10 years, Nevada has passed over a dozen tax hikes, including increases to the sales tax, vehicle registration tax and cigarette tax. Those are all taxes that directly make low-income Nevadans poorer.

Taking more money out of these families’ pockets would only increase their financial stress, which will lead to more transiency. That’s a vicious cycle, but there are alternatives.

For example, the district could explore zoning changes that allow students to finish out the school year at the same campus even if their family moves. The district could even start a pilot busing program aimed at families who’d need help with transportation. Change collective bargaining laws, and the district would have plenty of money to experiment in this area.

Students on the move are also a great argument for school choice. School choice, whether through Education Savings Accounts or Opportunity Scholarships, allows families to choose to send their child to a private school. Private schools don’t have boundary lines, so students could stay in the same classroom even if their family relocates locally. A portion of the ESA money could even be used to pay for transportation. School choice also costs the government less per student.

The Clark County School District can’t stop families from moving. Nevada, however, should move to embrace policies that would better help these children succeed.

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