Remember the Personal Learning Accounts Florida enacted last year for K12 students with disabilities? They provide about $10,000 for private school tuition, services and other materials. Public school students are not eligible, but home schoolers are.
Nevada has outdone Florida. Almost everyone can receive some money. Will public education become a waste land?
Nevada has enacted its version of a tax credit scholarship program and included an education savings account (ESA) for families. Nevada’s ESA program is available to any public school student, but not to private school or home school students.
Education Savings Accounts
The ESA program provides the full amount of per student public school funding ($5,700) for students with disabilities or families with incomes below 185% of the poverty level. Families with incomes above this level ($44,863), will receive 90% of the per student allocation of public schools ($5,100).
The law states that “unless otherwise stated in the legislation, nothing in the legislation will be deemed to limit the independence or autonomy of any participating entity.” There are some requirements.
- Private schools must be licensed as do teachers and administrators.
- Students must take a nationally normed test in math and English, and scores will be reported to the DOE.
- The curriculum must cover state mandated standards.
- Graduation rates will be reported.
The State Treasurer will be responsible for oversight of the required ESA receipts. If a school/entity receives more than $50,000 in ESA funds, it must post a bond.
Five states now have ESA programs: Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Nevada. They have not opened the program to all public school students, but some do offer them to students already enrolled in private schools.
Nevada Corporate Tax Credit Scholarships
Nevada also passed a corporate tax credit scholarship program to cover student private school tuition. Families with incomes less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($72, 750 for a family of four) are eligible. The scholarships that can reach $7,775 will be supervised by scholarship granting organizations. They will be randomly audited by the State Department of Taxation.
How the two programs–ESA and the tax credit scholarships–will interact is not clear. How students will be selected for each program is not yet specified. Two different agencies have oversight. Accountability is uncertain.
If the general idea is to cut costs, how private schools cover facility costs and have high quality education becomes an issue. Educational accountability measures in Nevada are vague. Is it possible to do more with less? How will Nevada know? Maybe it is a gamble.