When children step foot on public school property they instantly transform into two things: wards of the State and literal, human resources. Student handbooks often disclose this fact – maybe as a way to dissuade parents from getting too close during school hours.
But it’s true – each student has a monetary value as soon as they are registered in a district. It depends on the state but is frequently well over $5,100 per year per student, as it is in Nevada. Can you imagine someone benefitting monetarily off the mere existence of your child – and part of that profit comes from you? Like a profitable prison that is incentivised by the amount of bodies in cells, so is the public school that wants that federal funding when your child fills a chair – even though it’s not supposed to be a profit.
The reason I make such a bleak comparison is because I’ve personally witnessed what this incentive does to a school district who views that funding as profit toward school resources even though it is intended as the amount needed to take care of the child. Maybe that partially explains overcrowded classrooms. A student once had a severe virus requiring long-term recovery and there were dozens of doctors’ notes to prove it and legitimize excused absences. I saw a principal pick up the phone and sic the truancy officer on the family as a veiled threat to force the student back in. It worked – to the detriment of the student’s health and more required time off. Attendance issues can be vicious when funding is on the line.
Nevada has just installed a novel approach in what’s called a near-universal education savings account (ESA) option- allow the funds in the child’s name to be in the control of the parent to put toward other school options like private school, extra tuition needs or future tuition costs. They were preceded in this approach by Arizona, Mississippi, Tennessee and Florida.
The Daily Signal explains that:
More than 2,200 parents have already applied to participate in the ESA option, which provides students with a portion (roughly $5,100 annually) of the funds that would have been spent on them in their public school in an ESA account that they can then use to pay for a variety of education-related services, products, and providers.
They can use their ESA to pay for private school tuition, online learning, special education services and therapies, textbooks, curricula, and a host of other education-related expenditures. As the name implies, parents can also save unused funds, rolling dollars over from year-to-year to pay for future education costs.
Guess who had a major problem with school choice? The ACLU of all things. They have done some great work shining light on abuse of civil liberties but when it comes to anything bordering on approval of religion it gets absurd.
The ACLU has now filed a lawsuit to block the law signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev. this past spring. The organization alleges that the program “violates the Nevada Constitution’s prohibition against the use of public money for sectarian (religious) purposes.”
That issue gets murky when you consider where the money originally came from and where it’s going – to parents. Some education groups feel that the ESA further promotes individual freedom to choose and does not lead to endorsement by the government of any religion.
Tim Keller, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, chimed in with staunch support for the ESA,
Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) Program was enacted to help parents and children whose needs are not being met in their current public schools, and we will work with them to intervene in this lawsuit and defeat it.
The United States Supreme Court, as well as numerous state supreme courts, have already held that educational choice programs, like Nevada’s ESA Program, are constitutional. We expect the same from Nevada courts.
Do you think the ACLU will succeed in this pursuit? In an ironic twist, if they were to succeed in a suit like this in Arizona, they could be depriving a blind student 90% of his allocated $21,000 which could allow him to have the best education and braille available, according to parent testimony given to The Daily Signal.