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VICTOR JOECKS: By opposing school choice, Democrats uphold systemic racism

If Democrats really want to dismantle systemic racism, theyd champion school choice.

Last week, the Assembly Ways and Means Committee heard Gov. Joe Lombardo’s omnibus education bill, Assembly Bill 400. It’s a huge bill that touches on subjects ranging from Read by Three, transportation funding for charter schools and open zoning. Most of the proposals would be beneficial, although limiting the authority of school organization teams is the exception.

The centerpiece is an expansion of school choice. Lombardo wants to increase the amount of tax credits available for Nevada’s Opportunity Scholarship program, which allows businesses to get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donating to a scholarship granting organization. Those groups give scholarships that allow students to pay for private school tuition.

This year, there were $6.7 million in tax credits available. Lombardo wants to boost that to around $25 million annually. He also wants the allocation to increase every biennium, growing to $250 million a year within a decade. Eligibility is currently limited to families at or below 300 percent of the poverty line. Lombardo wants to increase that to 500 percent.

It’s far from universal school choice, but it would give families more options. Predictably, many Democrats expressed concerns.

On the campaign trail “nobody asked me how the state could use its tax money to subsidize sending their children to private school,” Speaker Steve Yeager tweeted after the hearing.

Good news. The government isn’t subsidizing any private school. It’s empowering parents to choose the option that’s best for their children. No one whines that the state is subsidizing St. Rose hospitals when Medicaid pays them for services.

There’s an under-discussed angle here, however. The left has spent years embracing critical race theory, which contends that America and its institutions are systemically racist. The supposed proof is the existence of racial disparities. African American males are disproportionately likely to be imprisoned. Therefore, the criminal justice system is systemically racist and must be torn down. Individual behavior isn’t a mitigating factor. It’s about only group outcomes.

There are numerous flaws with this theory, but many Nevada Democrats embrace this worldview. It’s why they led a disastrous effort to gut school discipline a few years ago. In 2020, legislative Democrats, joined by most Republicans, approved a resolution stating, “Systemic racism and structures of racial discrimination constitute a public health crisis.”

If you really buy into CRT or its offshoots such as DEI, public education should be at the top of the list of things that need to be demolished. Look at results from the Clark County School District last school year. Among white fourth-graders, 56.5 percent tested proficient in English. Not great, but dramatically better than the 24.3 percent proficiency rate of Black students. Among Hispanic students, it was 34.1 percent. In fourth-grade math, proficiency was 48.8 percent for white students, 14.6 percent for Black students and 23.8 percent for Hispanic youngsters.

Supporting school choice is way for Democrats to attack a major racial disparity. But instead of tearing down these “structures of racial discrimination,” Democrats want to keep minority children trapped in failing public schools. Shameful.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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