Research and Commentary: Nevada Education Savings Accounts

Published May 29, 2015

State Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) is sponsoring a bill to create education savings accounts (ESA) for all students throughout Nevada. The proposal would offer parents 90 percent of the money the Education Department would normally spend on an average student and allow the parent to use it for their child’s education in lieu of attending a public school. Parents would be able to use the funds for tuition to send their child to a private school, take online courses, provide textbooks, or receive tutoring. The leftover funds would remain in the private account and could be used for college.

Nevada’s current K–12 education system is a poor investment. The state ranks at the bottom of Education Week‘s “Quality Counts State Report Card,” in 50th place with a “D” on the grading scale out of the 50 states and Washington, DC. Students evidenced a very low 65.6 percent in the Chance for Success category and an overall achievement rating of 66.7 percent. The overwhelming majority of Nevadans view their public schools as fair or poor, and only 21 percent see them as good or excellent.

Opponents of the bill express concerns funds will be diverted away from the public school system, which they claim needs the money most. Academic research shows both public and private schools improve when states allow more choice. ESAs and vouchers act as an incentive for all schools to raise their quality of education in order to continue receiving funds as parents freely choose the best education options for their children.

ESAs enable families to customize their children’s education. Research shows parents given a choice tend to be more satisfied with their child’s education, which leads to more involvement in their learning. Arizona has implemented an ESA program, and 71 percent of parents reported being “very satisfied” with their child’s education compared with their previous public school. The rest of the parents were either satisfied or somewhat satisfied, and none said they were unsatisfied. The Nevada Policy Research Institute says the Nevada bill would establish the “single best school choice program in the entire country.”

When government limits a child’s educational options according to where the child lives, it places a huge burden on children who happen to live in low-income areas. Education savings accounts would provide Nevada parents more flexibility and choice in the education of their children.

The following documents provide more information on school choice and education savings accounts.

America’s Best School Choice Program Awaits Action in State Senate Finance Committee
The Nevada Policy Research Institute strongly supports the pending bill for education savings accounts as a great opportunity for Nevada families. It argues the expansion of school choice will increase competition between these institutions and benefit the students by attending to their individual academic needs.

Nevada Legislature Looks for Game-Changers in Education
Writing for, Michael Chamberlain outlines the ways parents would be able to use their funds through the proposed Nevada education savings accounts, such as tuition, textbooks, transportation, and college expenses.

Nevada Bill Would Give State Money to Private Schools
Opponents of education savings accounts argue education choice would divert money from public schools. Proponents of the bill argue it would benefit all students by increasing competition among schools to provide a quality education.

States Embracing School Choice See Better Outcomes
In its most recent Report Card on American Education, the American Legislative Exchange Council found the states with the best grades had implemented legislation creating or increasing school choice and access to charter schools. States with limited options did not receive acceptable grades and are falling behind other states.

New Day for School Choice: Education Savings Accounts Turn 3 Years Old
Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute reviews the first years of ESA availability in Arizona. Legislative changes since lawmakers enacted the accounts have given more children access, and in 2013 researchers conducted the first studies of how families are using the accounts. Butcher describes the legislation and research, plus developments in a lawsuit an Arizona teachers’ union and school boards’ association filed against the accounts. Finally, he offers recommendations for education savings account expansion, fraud prevention, and academic transparency.

ESA Basics: Key Points of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts
This fact sheet from the Goldwater Institute explains how Arizona’s education savings accounts work. It describes eligibility and basic regulations regarding how parents may use the funds.

The Way of the Future: Education Savings Accounts for Every Family
Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman proposed a system of school vouchers more than 50 years ago to improve education outcomes and efficiency. Technological advances now allow programs replacing state-funded tuition vouchers with accounts parents can manage to the last penny. Writing for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, Matthew Ladner notes ESAs allow parents to choose among a much wider range of instruction options than the current system, including schools, tutors, online educational programs, and higher education. This gives parents incentives to judge education providers on both quality and cost, a unique and crucial trait currently lacking in publicly financed K–12 education.

Expanding Education Choices: From Vouchers and Tax Credits to Savings Accounts
This Heritage Foundation Special Report presents three ways states can refine their existing school choice programs by transforming existing voucher and tax-credit programs into flexible education savings accounts. A movement is gaining momentum to give all parents the ability to choose where and how their children are educated. This movement builds on longstanding school choice programs, including the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, and private school scholarship options in Florida and Pennsylvania, among other states. The next generation of educational choice must offer more than a choice among schools. Parents should have the option of choosing among schools, online courses, tutors, and other education services through education savings accounts (ESA). ESAs give parents control over the funds the state spends on their children’s education, allowing them to use their child’s funds for a variety of education services and products.

Dollars, Flexibility, and an Effective Education: Parent Voices on Arizona’s Education Savings Accounts
Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute concludes Arizona’s education savings accounts are the most effective way for parents to find a great education for their child. On May 8, 2013, the Goldwater Institute conducted a focus group for savings-account families. Among the key findings: Ninety-four percent of participants said they were “very satisfied” with education savings accounts, and 6 percent were “somewhat satisfied”; parents report the public school and district officials they encounter show little knowledge of education savings accounts; and parents say it is a significant challenge to renew their child’s special-needs diagnosis at a public school, which is required to remain eligible for a savings account.

Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the School Reform News website at, The Heartland Institute’s website at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

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