Nevada Special-Needs Students May Get School Choice

Published June 1, 2009

As the Nevada legislative session approached its end in May, one education bill managed to get exemption from the first House passage deadline, but a broader bill expired.

Senate Bill 81, which at press time was pending in the Senate Finance Committee, would give special-needs students vouchers to attend private schools. SB 81 is patterned after a Florida program, the McKay scholarship.

“We have children that have diverse needs, and parents should be allowed to find the best possible education for their child, no matter what the circumstances,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Barbara Cegavske (R-Clark County). “A lot of the public schools can’t provide the unique services the private schools can. They have those extra things the children need to be successful.”

Tax Credits to Be Revisited

A similar bill proposing universal tuition tax credits for students statewide—Assembly Joint Resolution 4—failed to meet a key legislative deadline in April. The bill would have given per-pupil funding and tax rebates to parents with children enrolled in private schools.

Since the bill would amend the state constitution, legislators would have had to approve it again in the next biennial session, in 2011, if it had passed this session. After that, voters would have had to approve it on the election ballot in 2012.

“It just means we’ve got to wait another two years to get some real reform done,” said Patrick Gibbons, an education policy analyst for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a free-market think tank in Las Vegas. “The school districts, I suppose, could create their own program if they were so inclined, but considering [how] they fought so bitterly against charter schools, universal tax credits probably [don’t] stand a chance.”

Jillian Melchior ([email protected]) writes from Michigan.

For more information …

Nevada Senate Bill 81: