Special to the Las Vegas Tribune
Third of a three-part commentary on the results of the recent RINO governor Sandoval and legislature’s actions on our elementary education.
The foregone conclusion is that all-day kindergarten, classroom-size reduction and all of the other RINO programs that I have addressed in the two prior installments, will not succeed. Is there any program that has a good chance of dramatically helping elementary education in Clark County? Maybe school vouchers can succeed… eventually.
School vouchers is the only law enacted during the last legislature that may actually help kids. First let me explain that the name “Vouchers” has been changed, in typical government fashion, to make it more complicated and have a confusing name. Simplistically, if you don’t want your kid to attend public education in the state with the worst public education system in the nation, you apply for a “voucher” that you can then give to a private school to pay part or all of your kid’s tuition in private school. The voucher money is not all of what the school district recieves to pay for your kid’s schooling. So when your kid goes elsewhere, the remaining funding per student actually goes up for the remaining students.
Since the private sector has already proven that it does educate Clark County students better than the (Public) Clark County School District (CCSD), the theory goes that CCSD should immediately fail and private schools will take over, thereby curing the problem. I believe this to be theoretically true and so did the RINOS who just created this (one
of only a few non-RINO) improvement and all of the other spend-spend-spend improvements that just came out of the legislature.
So why are we not seeing a private school building boom akin to, say, medical marijuana construction?
It typically costs CCSD about $25 million to build an elementary school. So we can assume that private companies can easily make a better one for half of that,say $12.5 million. Private elementary education has not proven to be as profitable as marijuana. It is more like a grocery store with steady revenue and moderate profits. School builders building tenant improvements into existing buildings may recover their investment in 5 to 10 years. Builders of new school buildings will take at least two school years to build and 10 to 15 years to recover their investments. Given the fickle nature of Nevada government, would you choose to invest in a new school?
So the Clark County building boom in elementary schools is actually the boom started by CCSD months prior to the law’s enactment, because they knew the fix was in for the spend-spend-spend funding.
On the private side, the new construction of schools is muted at best. Typically existing private schools are expanding modestly. Bankers funding new entire schools would know that if the Democrats decided to kill private ED, all that they have to do is turn all public schools over to 12-month school calendars to increase capacity and stop funding vouchers. CCSD alone could swallow up the entire current capacity of local private ED in one school year. This makes building private schools a financial risk that few are willing to take.
This situation was set up to avoid exactly what Republicans were hoping would happen. The hope was that massive private investment would out-compete CCSD and force reform. If you are expecting to see this happen, investors will have to see a long term trend to safeguard their investment from the state pulling the voucher program out from
under private ED. As this situation is unparalled, no statistical conclusions can be made to determine how long it will take for the tipping point where private ED takes over or forces CCSD to reform. It is reasonable to expect that private ED could outstrip the growth in student population going forward. But, it could never reach that tipping point.
Other conditions of the law further harm the ability of the program to do what Republicans hope for. One effect of improved private ED funded by vouchers was expected to be encouragement for parents to move here knowing that Nevada is ranked near dead last in almost every known education ranking. Local employers trying to attract talent to the area would hope to offer the voucher system to families coming from states that have competently implemented ED. Unfortunately, the law requires those new to the state have to attend (about) one school year before they are eligible. As people are creatures of habit, there is less likelihood that [already situated] parents would move their
eligible students. Newcomers, coming from states where there is good elementary ED, would be naturally inclined to start out in Nevada private ED. So it had to be stopped. The point of doing this for the Democrats is to avoid the rapid expansion of private ED during the next boom. For incoming parents putting their student into CCSD for one year will typically cause the student to lose a year of education.
So it is a deterrent to coming here, but not as big of a deterrent as before.
So what is the bottom line for “Vouchers”? Nothing statistically significant will result from it prior to the next legislature. If the next legislature leaves it in place or improves it, then increased investment will come and a significant impact could then eventually force the public sector to become competitive. Meanwhile the effect
will be very significant to you if it is your student who leaves CCSD and uses the voucher money to go elsewhere.