(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – Victor Joecks at NPRI presents a real success story in education. There is a plan in which Nevada can adopt education reforms that have proven results, rather than listen to the “spend more money” chant of the education establishment.
About a dozen years ago, Florida and Nevada were roughly equivalent in educational achievement. During that time, spending on K-12 education in the two states has increased by approximately the same amount. Yet Florida’s students have shown steady and marked improvement, while Nevada’s student performance has stagnated.
In 1998, Florida and Nevada posted the same score on the National Assessment of Educational Progress fourth-grade reading exam. Starting in 1999, then-Florida governor Jeb Bush instituted a series of education reforms, including:
•A corporate-tuition scholarship program that allows more than 23,000 low-income students to attend the school of their parents’ choice;
•The largest virtual-school program in the nation, with more than 80,000 students learning online;
•A robust program of charter schools (autonomous, privately run public schools), through which 350 charter schools serve more than 100,000 students;
•The McKay Scholarship program, which sends more than 20,000 special-needs kids to the public or private school of their parents’ choice;
•Strengthened curricula and assessments, including a very clear and public system for grading schools on an A-through-F basis;
•A ban on social promotion out of the third grade (passed in 2002) — if a child cannot yet read, he or she repeats the grade or takes a remedial summer-school program;
•A new approach to teacher recruitment, including genuinely alternative pathways allowing adult professionals to become state-certified; and
•Scholarships for students to leave failing schools (declared unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006).
It is long past time to nibble around the edges of education reform. We have a system that is failing our children, the very ones for whom it is supposed to work. Funding for education has been steadily increasing. Yet for all this additional money, our students are not learning any more or performing any better.
Simply pouring more money into this failing system has not produced results. We need to give parents a choice in their child’s education. We need to make sure that the money we spend gets as close to the classroom as possible. We need to make sure that children are prepared for the next level before we pass them through. We need to adopt reforms that work and demand results.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)(Read Victor Joecks article online to learn more about how Florida succeeded in educating its children. – Ed.)