(Geoffrey Lawrence/NPRI) – As Nevada’s children return to school this fall, many parents will again be frustrated, recognizing that their children will be relegated to sub-standard education.
Parents who can’t afford to live in the wealthy neighborhoods that host the best public schools, and who can’t afford private-school tuition, will discover that the educational opportunities available to their children are generally inferior to those available to children of more affluent families.
Consider, for example, what the Clark County School District’s new school performance ranking system reveals. With the exception of magnet schools — schools of choice sponsored by the district itself — there is a clear correlation between school quality and the income levels of the surrounding community.
The best of the traditional public schools are found in Summerlin and Green Valley. The worst are clustered around North Las Vegas and Nellis Air Force Base.
Magnet schools, along with charter schools — privately run public schools — do offer an alternative for the typically low-income families who are zoned into failing traditional schools. The demand for such alternatives, however, is high, and space is limited.
As recent documentaries like Waiting for ‘Superman’ illustrate, parents wishing to enroll their children in these schools are often disappointed to discover that admission is based entirely on results of a random lottery. The lucky few who are accepted can escape the failing public schools where they would otherwise attend. But when the best opportunities for one’s children depend on chance, chance is a cruel mistress.
The filmmakers behind Waiting for ‘Superman’ suggest it’s no coincidence that the worst public schools so often are found in low-income neighborhoods. But poor neighborhoods don’t create bad schools, they note: It’s bad schools that create poor neighborhoods.
Traditional public education’s failures amplify the cycle of poverty in those neighborhoods — making it critically important that the families in these neighborhoods have educational choices, which give their children a better opportunity to succeed in life.