With the coming legislative session and the Governor’s proposed $60 million budget item for ESA vouchers, we must consider whether vouchers are good policy for Nevada families and taxpayers.
Much has been said about other important investments, with proven track records of success, that should be funded instead of vouchers. Access to quality pre-K, additional weighted funding for more vulnerable populations, and capital investments to improve our school environments are just a few of the desperately needed investments that should take priority over vouchers.
We also know that most voucher applicants come from wealthier zip codes, raising the question of whether vouchers would actually help those most in need. But why are voucher applicants more likely from wealthy neighborhoods?
Many reasons attribute to this pattern.
- Many low-income families rely on school transportation, which private schools that are typically far from poor neighborhoods, do not offer.
- Many low-income families rely on free or reduced lunch, which is not available in private schools.
- Private schools often don’t offer the additional resources and services necessary for the most vulnerable students to succeed, and these schools can simply reject students with these, often expensive, needs.
But perhaps more importantly, private schools are prohibitively expensive. Some estimates find the average private school in Nevada costs between $8,000 to $10,000 per year. A voucher for low-income families would be about $5,700 per year, per child. A family with three children would need between $6,900 to $12,900 over and above the voucher funds to take advantage of the program each year. And this does not include fees, uniforms, transportation, and food costs, which can add thousands more onto the cost of private school.
This chart illustrates how few options low-income families have when considering private school options.
We must come together and make investments so families have the choice of a strong, quality neighborhood school. We must support Nevada’s 460,000 children that rely on public school. Vouchers do not and will not work for the vast majority of these families.