(Victor Joecks/NPRI) – This is what real and substantive reforms look like.
The education reforms include a proposed constitutional amendment to offer private school vouchers and a system to grade schools based on student performance.
Gov. Brian Sandoval’s education plan also includes the following:
- An accountability bill that would eliminate teacher tenure and do away with so-called “last in, first out” priorities when it comes to teacher layoffs.
- A proposed constitutional amendment to provide vouchers for parents to send their children to private schools.
- A system of evaluating schools with letter grades and ending social promotion, similar to reforms made in Florida under former Gov. Jeb Bush.
The bill drafts are forthcoming, so apply the usual “final judgment will have to wait until the actual language is produced” caveat.
That being said, similar education reforms in other states have produced dramatic results.
Evaluating schools with letter grades and ending social promotion are a couple of the policies Florida has instituted in the last 12 years. Florida’s reforms have produced dramatic gains in student achievement. Nevada’s students would benefit from these reforms as well.
Sandoval’s proposal to eliminate teacher tenure and do away with “last-in, first-out” policies are especially important when you consider that teacher quality is the most important school-related factor in student achievement.
And Sandoval’s voucher program is supported by overwhelming evidence that vouchers both save tax dollars and increase student achievement. Consider:
- Study after study has shown that choice-based education reforms (including vouchers and tuition tax-credit programs) improve student achievement.
- Ten high-quality, random assignment studies have been conducted on voucher programs. Nine found that some or all of the participants benefited academically from vouchers. One found no difference.
- Overview of the 10 studies and their results is here.
- No random assignment study has found students using vouchers did worse than students in public schools.
- In Washington, D.C., students who used a voucher increased their graduation rate by 21 percent.
- In Charlotte, N.C., students who used a $1,700 scholarship for one year scored 5.9 percentile points higher in math and 6.5 percentile points higher in reading than public school students who had not used the scholarship.
- Fifty-three percent of parents whose children used the scholarship gave their school an “A” compared to 26 percent of public-school parents.
- Parents love vouchers (and other school-choice programs).
- Of the five random assignment studies that have studied parental satisfaction, each has found large positive impacts.
If designed correctly, vouchers or tax credits can save Nevada money as well.
How do you design the program correctly? Unfortunately, you have to exclude all the kids who are currently attending private schools. Fair? No, but financially necessary and worth it once those kids are let into the voucher system a few years down the road.
During the campaign, Sandoval’s opponent estimated a voucher program would cost about $100 million, based on the number of children currently enrolled in private schools.
“That number is a fallacy,” he [Sandoval’s senior adviser Dale Erquiaga] said. “It won’t cost $100 million. That would assume every child currently in private school will take a voucher. Well, in our proposal they aren’t all going to be eligible.”
There’s a lot more to explore, including offering vouchers of greater value to low-income students, and we’ll definitely be following this a whole lot more in the upcoming weeks.