School choice

The vast majority of the populace cannot afford private school tuition, nor can most two-income households get by on a single paycheck so the kids can be home-schooled. Because teacher unions are so effective in killing legislative proposals for tax credits and school vouchers, most children are at the whims of their neighborhood public education monopoly, and if their parents aren’t happy with the results … well, they don’t have a choice, right?

In school choice wastelands like Nevada, however, charter schools stand as the lone alternative for parents who want something different for their children. Charter schools receive the same per-student funding from the state as public schools, but have more leeway than public schools in crafting their curriculums, hiring and firing their teachers, instructing students and expelling kids who cause trouble.

Some charter schools emphasize technology, while others focus on leadership and literacy.

The Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy stands near downtown Las Vegas as a monument to all the good that charter schools can do. Surrounded by public school campuses with poor records of achievement, the Agassi Academy has raised expectations and delivered results.

Clearly, the public wants more charter schools. And applications were pouring into the State Board of Education last year.

But board members, mostly career educators and teacher union loyalists, chose to do nothing, arguing they didn’t have the staff to process the applications. So last fall the board instituted a charter school moratorium despite having no legal authority to do so.

On Saturday, the board finally lifted that moratorium after it was granted funding for a new position to review the applications. (Of course, no one could be diverted from other positions to respond to an area of service demand — bureaucracies don’t work that way.) The decision to start doing its job didn’t come without objection; member Cindy Reid “criticized charter schools as money-making schemes often run by for-profit, out-of-state companies,” the Review-Journal reported Sunday.

Heaven forbid an enterprise make such efficient use of the identical resources given to public schools that there’s some left over. Heaven forbid enough of these institutions succeed that ever more citizens want to give them a try. That might introduce the behemoth Clark County School District to the one thing it fears most: competitive pressure.

The board made the right decision in lifting the moratorium, though it never should have been put in place. Its membership must finally recognize that they can’t shirk the public’s desire for greater school choice.

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