Modest school choice

Amid the late-session rush, the state Senate last week unanimously approved Senate Bill 158, which would create a voucher program for special-education students.

Nevada has never been known as a hot-bed of the school choice movement. The teacher unions have many powerful allies in Carson City — particularly in the Democratic Assembly.

So the fact that this measure passed the upper house without any opposition is a significant and positive development for those who favor serious education reform.

Under the bill, the parents of a special education student would receive a voucher they could use to send their child to either a public or private school. The state Department of Education would administer the program and the school the parents select would receive the proportionate cost of the taxpayer funding already set aside to provide instruction to the student.

The obvious question, of course, is why the measure is confined to “special education” students. If it’s good for them, why wouldn’t it be good for all students and parents to have a similar option?

The obvious answer, of course, is that this limited foray into educational choice is all that the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, could expect would survive the legislative process.

The bill now moves to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. In the past, any effort to shake up the education establishment has been met with a cold shoulder from Democrats in the lower house, who favor the failing status quo.

We’ll find out in the next few days if the Assembly remains the chamber to which education reform goes to die.

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