The desperate cries of low-income children and mothers are no match for Democrats’ desire for political power.
On Wednesday, the Interim Finance Committee rejected a proposal that would have allowed hundreds of students to remain at the school of their choice. Last year, those students received Opportunity Scholarships, Nevada’s small school choice program. Eligibility is limited to lower-income families.
This year, many scholarship-granting organizations are out of money. The amount of available tax credits is lower than last year after one-time funding dried up and one group claimed the available tax credits. Democrats rejected Gov. Joe Lombardo’s efforts to modestly expand the program during the legislative session. To help students stay in their schools, Lombardo wanted to use $3.2 million in unused COVID funds.
“Please let me and other students stay at our school,” 14-year-old Estela Manzano pleaded. She noted that her private school “has helped me understand math much better.”
“The Opportunity Scholarship has allowed me to attend a private school,” 17-year-old Julia Manzano testified. “My school has helped me far more than any public school I have ever been in.”
One mother testified that her 11-year-old son William’s “academic and personal development have improved” thanks to his Opportunity Scholarship. If forced to leave his current school, she’s worried about the “high degree of violence in his assigned school.”
A translator read the testimony of Maria Flores, who said she was “very distressed and worried” about her three daughters losing their scholarships.
It was powerful, heartbreaking stuff.
It would be one thing if the program was expensive. But the scholarship is an incredible deal. Nevada’s per-pupil spending on public schools is $12,900 this year. Last year, the average student with an Opportunity Scholarship received around $6,300. Let that sink in. Forcing these low-income kids back into public schools will cost taxpayers twice as much money.
In a nonpolitical world, questions would have centered on how to expand this program as quickly as possible. After all, this is the rare education initiative that actually works. Instead, Democrats spent the hearing vainly searching for a scapegoat to distract from their preordained intent to reject the funding.
Understand this. Legislative Democrats don’t oppose Opportunity Scholarships because they don’t work. After all, public education has failed many children for decades, and they claim that proves the system needs more money.
In fact, Democrats hate Opportunity Scholarships precisely because they do work. The program provides students with a better education for far less money. That’s a major threat to Democrats’ union allies — and hence their own political power.
A majority of the program recipients are members of a racial minority group. That means the decision not to fund the scholarships created a racial disparity. By the left’s standards, racist Democrats took away scholarships from minority kids. No wonder progressives don’t consistently apply their own definition of racism.
Democrats had a chance to help low-income students. Instead, they prioritized personal political gain. Shame on them.