During his campaign, Gov. Joe Lombardo billed himself as the “education governor,” and he is making good on his promise. The governor’s Education, Achievement, Opportunity and Accountability Act (Assembly Bill 400) is vital legislation that will improve student achievement, benefit teachers and address funding issues. Gov. Lombardo is making a most significant investment in K-12 education in the following ways:
■ Establishing the Office of School Choice to help facilitate the creation of new charter schools. These schools can serve the needs of thousands of students currently on long waiting lists.
■ Expanding the Opportunity Scholarship program to serve more lower- and middle-income families that would like to choose private school options.
■ Implementing open zoning in major school districts, and ensuring that Nevada’s education system works better for every student, teacher and family.
■ Making childhood literacy the priority it should be by reinstituting the pivotal program “Read by Grade Three,” a proven initiative to give students a better chance at success. The popularity of this program was evident in recent polling that showed 84 percent of Nevadans support “Read by Grade Three.”
■ Adding incentives for teachers to stay in Nevada by providing innovative scholarship opportunities for those wanting to get into the field and for teachers wishing to advance their education.
■ Addressing Nevada’s challenges with teacher shortages by allowing retired educators to return to the classroom and draw their retirement and a salary without unnecessary administrative hurdles.
■ Creating the Commission on School Funding, which would be tasked with monitoring and providing oversight and accountability. This, on top of the governor’s education audit, will ensure this unprecedented amount of funding goes to help all students.
This investment in school choice represents a sea change for Nevada that could set an example for states across this country. While opponents of school choice often claim that these programs leave public schools underfunded while charter schools are put first, the reality is quite different.
The overwhelming majority of evidence shows that school choice programs get results not only for those who participate but also for the students in public schools by increasing competition and lowering class sizes to reduce the burden on teachers. They also save taxpayer funds and reduce socioeconomic divisions.
Public opinion is on the side of Gov. Lombardo’s efforts. Recent polling shows that 70 percent of Nevadans support school choice, while 69 percent support Opportunity Scholarships for families making less than $150,000 a year.
It is clear that Nevadans are ready for a fundamental change to our approach to education, and we finally have the leadership to get this done. Parents in Nevada overwhelmingly support important tenets of the Education, Achievement, Opportunity and Accountability Act. AB400 will go a long way to diversify and improve education in our state.
Education is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor and AB400 increases options and accountability for every Nevada family.
Erin Phillips is president of Power2Parent, an activist group seeking to mobilize parents and community members to protect parental rights. This column was originally published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.