Victor Joecks: School choice emerging as Nevada election issue

Minority parents in Nevada strongly support school choice, and elected officials are taking notice. School choice is also a way to help modernize education. That’s according to Valeria Gurr, director of Nevada School Choice Coalition.

“Families in Nevada want choice, and we are (seeing) that the numbers are increasing,” said Gurr while filming Nevada Politics Today. “Especially among Hispanics and millennials, those … are the ones that are really for choice.”

Gurr was discussing an April 2018 poll showing 70 percent of Nevadans support special-needs education savings accounts and 59 percent support Opportunity Scholarships.

“The Hispanic vote is going to matter when it comes to choice,” said Gurr. “Families want choice. They don’t understand why politicians wouldn’t want to give them choice.”

She believes school choice will change votes in the governor’s race as well. Republican Adam Laxalt supports school choice, but his Democrat opponent Steve Sisolak has come out in opposition.

“Families want and are pushing for choice,” Gurr said. “And I think that when they’re looking at candidates that support choice. It’s a huge topic in our community. I hear from candidates now who are knocking on doors that families are talking about education and see choice as part of the solution.”

She believes that there are Democrat candidates and elected officials who will support educational choice in the next legislative session, but “we’ll see after election time.”

Gurr also views school choice as a way to help public schools improve. “The two concepts can co-exist. We do need strong public schools and we do need choice. I think they’re two different things.”

Just having public schools is “an old and antique education system,” Gurr said. “We’re moving forward to a system that provides options to receive the best education possible. And that, sometimes, is not the public school setting.”

Nevada’s Opportunity Scholarship program currently provides private school choice to around 2,000 low-income students, Gurr said.

“The Opportunity Scholarship, it is a program for people to know, that’s only for low-income families. So a family cannot pass 300 percent of the poverty line.

“The report we have from the Department of Education shows that most of the funds that are given are below 185 percent of the poverty line.”

Victor Joecks is a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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