6-8-15 – Nevada Educational Savings Accounts

John McClaughry

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval just signed a landmark law titled the Universal Education Savings Accounts. It gives Nevada parents unprecedented control over their children’s education and makes Nevada a national leader in school choice.

Here’s how the Nevada program works. Upon parental request, the state sets aside funds that would be used to educate a child in a traditional public school in an Educational Savings Account. The parents can then access those funds to customize that child’s education, and pay for private school tuition, curriculum, tutoring, therapy for students with special needs and other approved services. The Nevada law goes further than several others because it applies to all parents and students, not just certain subsets.

Most students will receive 90 percent of their state education funds in their accounts, about $5,000 dollars. Economically disadvantaged and English learners will receive 100 percent. Their traditional public schools will retain local and federal funds for students who leave to take advantage of the Educational Savings Account opportunities. This will result in higher per-student spending for children who remain enrolled in public schools.

Translating this to Vermont, it would mean that the local school district would continue to count the ESA pupils, which would prevent a rise in cost per pupil that would lead to an increased residential school property tax rate in the town.

This is just one of the creative ideas around the country that Vermont needs to consider.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Donka June 12, 2015 at 11:33 pm

This is a great idea and one of the reasons Vt would never go for it. It would take law makers sitting down and discussing things and not listening to the lobbyists. School choice is the way forward. It has been proven that many private schools can operate more efficiently and at a less cost per pupil. When we create competition we all can save. Remember this in the voting booths we can make VT great again.


Weiland A. Ross June 15, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Before we get too happy with the Nevada law as a model for VT., there are some
omissions that, presumably, might be answered by a more complete description of the law.
Caveats: does this law allow public money to be spent on religious schools? This
would be philosophically and constitutionally wrong.
Does anyone think that $5,000, or in VT.’s case, $12,000 will actually cover the costs
of tuition, tutoring, or special needs therapy?
Does this law provide for blind admissions to all schools, public and private, that may be the parental choice?
Does this law provide that the ‘choice’ school must accept all transfers without the
option to say that they don’t have room or staffing for an influx of students?

School choice has, at this point, not been honestly or thoroughly discussed in a
meaningful way, especially in VT. It has become a shibboleth for people who, for
whatever reasons, are distrustful of their public system and only see greener
pastures elsewhere. Keep in mind that even in greener pastures you still have to
watch out for the B.S.

To establish school choice on a state wide basis would increase the size of the
state bureaucracy significantly, with the attendant increase in taxes to pay for it.

As I mentioned above, watch where you step in the greener pastures.


Rob June 15, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Weiland, obviously any law would need to be tailored to fit Vermont. Even if religious schools were allowed in Nevada (I don’t know) we may or may not allow that in VT, depending upon our own desires. The dollar amounts would also need to be Vermont-appropriate.

In fact, $12,000 is pretty close to the independent school voucher amount currently in effect in Vermont’s tuitioning town (between $13,000 and $14,000), which these schools use to great effect, with outstanding results.

As for an expanded bureaucracy, I really don’t see it. You could eliminate almost entirely the supervisory union level of the bureaucracy, leaving principals/boards in charge of making those decisions at the local level — which is what we would prefer, right? LOCAL control.

But you are correct that this needs to be thoroughly debated and the details worked out. Thanks for being part of a necessary conversation.


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