Put Parents in Charge of Education, Not Government

After three court battles, two legislative sessions, and an outside legal bill of over $500,000, we have yet to achieve what parents in Nevada want: the right, and financial ability, to oversee their children’s education.

The lesson is one for the entire country.

What went wrong? The Republican governor and Democratic-led legislature’s unwillingness to spend $80 million to fund education savings accounts, while being more than willing to spend $750 million on a new football stadium.

Education savings accounts are a groundbreaking development that puts parents in charge of their child’s education.

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How it works: The state deposits public funds in a private bank account that parents use to buy educational products and services for their children. Notably, these accounts allow parents and students to choose multiple learning services at one time.

Tasked with writing the regulations as Nevada state treasurer, I was present for the entire process as lawmakers considered education savings accounts. We held three public hearings.

My biggest takeaway: Education savings accounts mostly benefit financially challenged families. That includes families where both parents hold down full-time jobs, military families who move constantly, and single moms who want the best for their kids.

That’s why it was so laughable for Democrats to claim that these accounts somehow merely benefit the wealthy. Sadly, Republicans were happy to join with them to hold back the funding.

I went to public schools in grades K-12 and loved them: great teachers, great athletics, and life-long memories. And while those attributes may hold true for many public schools in 2017, that is not the case for all too many.

Our country spent $634 billion on public education in 2013-2014. Our students failed to crack the top 20 countries in a recent global ranking.

Nevada spends $2 billion per year on public schools. In three recent surveys, our public education system ranked 51, 49, and 47 in the country.

Not exactly a result the U.S.—or Nevada—can boast about.

Are education savings accounts silver bullet? No. But, they are an important first step in improving our country’s ability to educate our youth.

We should definitely support our public schools, but also admit that public schools are not educating all our kids to an acceptable level. Whether these children have special needs, their family lives don’t fit the mold, or they simply learn better on their own, we owe them the chance to chart their own course.

And choosing that path properly belongs to the parents, not to the government.

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