With a landmark stroke of his pen, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval recently signed legislation establishing the nation’s first statewide school-choice education-savings-account program available to all parents, regardless of their income level. With new studies showing widespread underperformance among middle-class children across the country, other states should implement similar programs immediately.
Under Nevada’s new program, for parents earning above the low-income level, the state will deposit funds, totaling 90 percent of the average statewide support per pupil, or roughly $5,100, into education savings accounts (ESAs). For parents earning below the low-income level or who have children with special needs, the state will deposit 100 percent of the average statewide support per pupil, around $5,700, into parents’ ESAs. Parents can then withdraw funds from their ESAs to pay for a variety of educational services such as private-school tuition, distance-learning online programs, and tutoring.
Giving all parents, regardless of their income level, the opportunity to choose the best education for their children makes sense, not only because many middle-class parents, struggling from paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet, don’t have the resources to afford private-school tuition or tutoring services, but also because many public schools are failing to raise the performance of middle-class students. Nevada is a perfect example.
On the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), often called the nation’s report card, 59 percent of non-low-income Nevada eighth graders, six in 10, failed to score at the proficient level on both the 2013 NAEP reading and math exams. New research shows that such underperformance among middle-class students is not limited to Nevada.