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LETTERS: Clarifying Education Savings Accounts

To the editor:

The Nevada Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 302, which establishes publicly funded Education Savings Accounts. These accounts can be used by parents to fund a wide number of education-related expenses. One key issue is whether this program violates Nevada’s Constitution, which prohibits the use of public funds for sectarian purposes. The state treasurer’s office, which has been charged with implementing ESAs, believes it does not, for several reasons.

First and foremost, SB302’s purpose is to fund education, not religious training. Subject to the law’s provisions, parents — not institutions — decide how and where to use their ESA funds. Second, SB302 requires participating students to pass standardized proficiency tests. Third, because private schools may also offer religious education, that should not invalidate the ESA program. For example, many other public programs pay for health care or feed hungry kids at religious institutions. The focus is on the purpose, not the setting.

SB302 opponents point to a recent Colorado Supreme Court decision which ruled that school vouchers violated a similar prohibition. The Colorado decision is easy to distinguish. The Colorado program allowed private schools to make “enrollment decisions based upon religious beliefs.” No such proviso exists in SB302.

I hope that the teachers unions and school officials will embrace SB302 as a chance to improve the public school system. I also hope that by requiring private school and home-schooled students to complete 100 days in public schools, the two groups will meet their contemporaries. ESAs will not cure differences between those who receive a good education and those who don’t. But it’s a start.

SB302 represents an opportunity to improve the quality of K-12 education in Nevada by giving parents the ability to hold schools accountable for how and what they teach.

DAN SCHWARTZ

CARSON CITY

The writer, a Republican, is Nevada treasurer.

Electric Daisy death

To the editor:

So this, I do not understand: For some reason, the promoters of the Electric Daisy Carnival and officials at Las Vegas Motor Speedway book their three-day event every year in June, generally late enough in the month that temperatures are well over 100 degrees every day. For a week before the event, we hear all about how people need to remember to stay hydrated while attending.

This event is akin to Woodstock in my day, except weather conditions are extreme and the event comes back every year. The media steers clear of any negative press about what goes on at th EDC, because it is a major money maker for Las Vegas.

On June 20, a young man at the carnival died (“24-year-old man dies at Electric Daisy Carnival,” June 22 Review-Journal). Sure, it might have been for any of dozens of reasons; we can all surmise several, and my assumption is that dehydration was most likely a contributing factor. But the point is that this young man’s story will most likely get swept under the proverbial rug, as we can’t afford to lose income here.

There is a reason this town is called Sin City. The almighty dollar goes to the fat cats here and around the world who have a vested interest in real estate and the hotel-casinos in Las Vegas. So little is used to support our own people and their children. I believe our taxes will be going up this year to help public schools. Really? There were 400,000 people at the EDC. Three-day tickets for the festival were $700. I didn’t have the heart to look at prices for VIP tickets.

But do the math. Who is benefiting in the end? The elite, the less than 1 percent, who just keep getting fatter while we — the lucky middle class — continue our descent to the bottom, where we will be allowed the convenience of working for three-quarters of our lives, grasping at the hope that medical premiums won’t bankrupt us as we move into retirement.

Sadly, I don’t think anyone who organized the EDC in the desert in the heat of the summer will give much thought to the death that happened June 20. I believe to them it is collateral damage.

SURELY KARGANILLA

SANDY VALLEY

Private sector support

To the editor:

The article illuminating the difficulties of transforming Newark, N.J., into a viable and flourishing living destination left me with questions (“Mayor faces tough challenges to transform Newark,” June 26 Review-Journal). After a description of the formidable challenges engulfing Newark, the article notes that city administration is providing the incentive of forgivable home loans to local municipal workers and teachers who reside within city limits.

While treating government spending as a revolving slush fund, the city of Newark is completely ignoring the value and necessity of the private entrepreneurial and working class. At the very least, the private sector should be asked and encouraged to participate, as well.

TOM HOOVER

LAS VEGAS

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