Las Vegas Sun

April 25, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

School choice plan is a proven success

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Gov. Brian Sandoval recently proposed a tuition tax-credit scholarship program so low-income students attending low-performing public schools can attend a public or private school of the parent’s choice. A recent column by Dr. Sonya Douglas Horsford called this a “noncomprehensive, nontransformational idea.”

The only thing “noncomprehensive” about Gov. Sandoval’s proposal is that it will be limited to a small but needy segment of the Silver State’s student population. As for “nontransformational,” Horsford couldn’t be further from the truth.

Today, nine out of 10 random-assignment studies on school-choice programs show statistically significant benefits for participating students. Opponents of choice scholarship programs cannot point to one single random-assignment study demonstrating that students are hurt when given scholarships to attend private schools.

Ironically, Horsford’s biggest concern is how to measure whether a scholarship program would succeed. She makes no mention of how we don’t measure the impact of the more than $4 billion annual spending on K-12 education in Nevada.

But Horsford need not worry. There is an easy and inexpensive solution to measuring the impact of school choice without mandating statewide standardized tests. The solution simply requires testing a random selection of students who applied for and won a choice scholarship (the treatment group) and those who applied but did not win a scholarship (the control group). Such studies have been conducted by researchers from Harvard, Princeton, Chicago and most recently by Patrick Wolf at the University of Arkansas.

The author is a research fellow with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

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  1. Governor Sandoval proposes excellent ideas and actions for improving the state of education in Nevada. Previous Governors, except Gov. Kenny Quinn, were sorely lacking in this regard and the effects are very evident.


  2. This letter is nonsense.

    Mr. Gibbons simply has an agenda. I have seen him make comments on the LV Sun before and he is a one issue type of that he wants to see public education completely and utterly destroyed.

    What is not mentioned is that he works for NPRI and continues to sledge hammer out anything and everything he can to achieve that end. He hates teachers down to his very soul. If you don't believe me, look at all of his history of comments to LV Sun articles.

    He's all for home schooling, privatizing education, anything other than public education. Not only that, but he detests unions and anything that will pay a teacher a proper salary. It's an ultra-conservative agenda he wishes to pound out constantly and non-stop.

    Buy hey, it's free speech. Go for it. But I just wanna point out that he's been called out before regarding his horse with blinders views. Nonsense.

  3. "Mr. Gibbons has an agenda." Well, duh! Don't we all? I'm with Gibbons in trying to "destroy" the public school system which, over the past 5 decades, has proven to be a massive failure. Any business (other than a forced taxpayer supported one), and don't kid yourself, education is "BIG" business, would have declared bankruptcy long ago if its record was as putrid and its administrative costs so top-heavy. Parents & students need competition to correct the situation but, apparently, the left loves keeping as many students as ignorant as they can so they will check the "D" mark when voting. That's a Third-World" model we can do without!

  4. Comment removed by moderator. Personal Attack

  5. I would not exactly call public education a massive failure. Poor parenting and distracting technologies have had a lot to do with underachievement in education. I along with many others passed through the public school system and have done very well.

  6. Beyond excellent. We all need to get behind this "agenda" and demand EFFECTIVE K-12 and cost effective government spending.

  7. Public K-12 in CC, roughly 50% graduate. Anyone think all those "graduates" can actually read and write well? And now the higher-ed profs are telling us public K-12 needs 50% extra funding for ELL. NO, not a dime. I grew up with many ELL students. They spoke a variety of languages including Finnish, German, Romanian and/or whatever languages and dialects various LEGAL immigrants spoke. The parents did NOT speak English well, frequently very broken English as they learned from their kids--as the kids learned the language in public K-12. The parents AND kids WANTED to assimilate into OUR CULTURES. And everyone understood, you didn't have to apply yourself in school, but if you did not, you did NOT get extra attention nor remedial classes.

  8. Parents already have many choices.

    Public school districts across our country, and here in Nevada, MUST take any child who walks through their doors (the exception is a child expelled from the school and district-which is a legal process).

    Public schools cannot, by law, deny enrollment to a child who is a behavioral problem, a low performing child, a low IQ child, or a Special Education child, unlike many "private," choice, or charter schools. You are comparing apples and oranges, Patrick Gibbons.

    Here in Nevada, CCSD, and other school districts like it, offer a variety of "choices" for parents to choose from. We all know that there is no such thing as a "one size fits all" delivery of education. Some of the public school options are: online education, alternative education, behavioral schools, Specific Needs Special Education Schools, magnet schools, technical academies, community schools, partnership schools, and HeadStart. Each choice carries with it a commitment to work the program, provide for materials, involve active parent/caregiver participation, and possibly transportation.

    Parents need to thoughtfully weigh their options when it comes to providing the best education possible for their child. Although children are "resillient," after enough moves or changes from educational facilities and providers, a child will become traumatized, and begin to digress, losing any gains he or she has made. It is important to make a choice that one knows that they can commit for the long haul.

    Let's be FAIR: It would serve those who wish to utilize another venue of educational delivery, funds that their child would have in a regular public school, available as a voucher towards another type of school outside the public school setting. Rarely will that money be enough, and such parents or caregivers will most likely be paying a great deal MORE beyond that voucher, and also be actively participating more. They need to consider that for the long haul.

    A commonsense approach is best taken here. There is no need to scrap public schools, just facilitate those who rather select and commit to another educational facility outside public schools. The hostilities are totally unwarranted, as either choice must serve a student properly and well. It is about the individual student needs after all.

    Blessings and Peace,

  9. "The organizations Mr. Gibbons is associated with are all financially motivated with a strong dose of teacher hatred and very little to offer middle class and poor Americans."

    And isn't it funny that Mr. Gibbons' former employer, the Nevada "Policy" "Research" Institute, is reportedly having an event this month with an ALEC official?

    These types of incestuous connections between these lobbying groups is one of several reasons we need stronger campaign reform.

  10. "Today, nine out of 10 random-assignment studies on school-choice programs show statistically significant benefits for participating students. Opponents of choice scholarship programs cannot point to one single random-assignment study demonstrating that students are hurt when given scholarships to attend private schools."

    "....that students are hurt when given scholarships to attend private schools..." Where in heaven's name did you get that idea? Of course there is no harm involved with those children. That is not the point. Their parents are presumably concerned about their education and the failures of public schools, so they choose to send their children to private schools. These are the same children who, in public schools will succeed regardless, because of familial support.

    Those who will be hurt are the children remaining in public schools who will have to share limited funds with those who choose to go to private schools.

    This type of reform - funding private education is not reform. It is palliative and it will NOT solve the problems in education. It is discriminatory, divisive, and patronizing.

    The problems in education can only be reformed with a paradigm shift in leadership, curriculum focus and delivery, and a social/cultural awakening on the vital role of families/communities in child development and learning.

    Of course, nobody in the powers-that-be exclusive club will initiate these. They make public policies that benefit them and they do not have to be accountable for them.

    The advent of accountability brought about by the NCLB has just now made the public aware of the failures of their policies. Guess to whom they are shifting the blame. And, the public took it hook, line, and sinker. For, what can the peons do against a well-oiled machine who controls everything?

    Now the shills are continuing their campaign ever so strong. Give me a break. There are still people out there who are not as ignorant as you think they are. The pendulum will swing the other side one day, and you will face your comeuppance.

  11. Public K-12 is broken. Money won't fix it. Historically, parents are NOT routinely involved in student activities and school, above a very minimal level. Now you want to blame parents not teaching their todlers to read as the cause of K-12 failure? There always has been and always will be many parents who cannot participate in K-12 activities. And, many who cannot participate in their children's activities. Ever hear of things like earning a living? Broken homes? Single parents? Financial crisis? Unemployment?

  12. Nancy,

    Thanks for bringing up a valid concern however, there is no evidence that students "left behind" in public schools are hurt. Quite the contrary the evidence suggests that their education quality stays the same or improves.

    David Figlio from Northwestern University found that schools with a high population of low income students (which faced greater threat of low-income kids leaving for private schools) saw statistically significant improvement in education quality.

    Another article on the subject (Jay Greene is now a professor at Arkansas)

  13. Star, Nevada public schools DO NOT have to take ever child. They only have to take the children zoned to that school. Being told you must go to X school and no other is the exact opposite of choice.

  14. By Jove Roberta, you got it!

    Earning a living, broken homes, single parenthood, and many other social ills.

    Do you think a child whose Dad was hauled to jail the night before for abusing his Mom would be interested in listening to what the teacher would say the following day? Do you think a 12-year old who had been sexually abused the night before would be interested in a parallelogram? These are the home situations from where many of the students come. Repeated abuse desensitizes a child and makes him inured to what he would consider irrelevant to how he is feeling and thinking. How many lessons do you think are put aside in any given day to handle disruptive students?

    Family IS the basic unit of society. Unless that unit is kept strong, we have no hope in reforming anything, least of all education.

    Honor no longer exists in both private and public undertakings. Greed for money and power drives public policies and business decisions.

    K-12 education IS NOT what is broken. Its failure is the collateral damage of failed leadership and misdirected public apathy. And yes, money is NOT going to fix it.

  15. There he goes. I knew it would only be a matter of time before he responded to comments regarding his own letter.

    Mr. Gibbons, in refuting the truth from commenters who are actually teachers, uses right wing talking point internet sites to pound out his agenda.

    The simple fact of the matter is that even though Mr. Gibbons has his right to free speech, he simply doesn't have his right to make up the facts.

    All he is doing is slamming an agenda out there. Don't believe me? Look at every single one of his history of comments. It ALWAYS is against any and all types of public educations. He hates teachers. He hates unions. He hates students who he considers on the public dole. The only students he likes are the ones that go to schools that are privatized. It fits in with his ultra-conservative agenda that he continually sledge hammers out there on the LV Sun as well as other sites. He fits in perfect with the Tea/Republican Party Paul Ryan Ayn Rand mold.

    Just want to point out the obvious. He's not stating convictions he believes. He's stating stuff he's PAID to believe. The State of Nevada has undergone a period where we have faced just about 16 years or so of ultra-conservative Governors who take care of big business...all at the expense of education. The education K-12 system in the entire State has been GUTTED.

    And a guy like Mr. Gibbons just furthers that.

    Ignore his posts. He is only seeking an agenda. Nothing more. Nothing less. An ultra-conservative agenda that leads nowhere. Except to an ultra-conservative Tea/Republican Party utopie that only benefits the rich...and says to hell with everyone else. Incarcerate, not educate. That's Mr. Gibbons' motto.

  16. Gibbons:

    Yes, public schools HAVE to take EVERY child who comes to the door. No one is refused. Yes, they take EVERYONE zoned to that school, regardless of their abilities, socio-economic status, nationality, immigration status, etc. Unlike private schools who can refuse "unqualified" children.

    CCSD offers school choice for selected schools based on availability. Parents must apply. Zoning is an economic and logical decision to limit additional expense in busing children all over the valley.
    Zone variances are offered for parents who can prove the need to attend a preferred school. The parents have to provide their own transportation. Not too many avail of this option.

    Must you comment on education where you have only very limited experience? A research fellow? Try advanced research. It might broaden your perspective a bit.

  17. Nancy if you are referring to CCSD's open enrollment program there are a few problems

    1) the sign up time is not heavily advertised
    2) the sign up time is very short
    3) you cannot change your mind once you enroll
    4) your choice is kinda like Henry Ford offering a Model T in any color so long as its black (you get pretty much the same offerings in every school)

    Next, zoning is not logical unless you prefer keeping religious or racial minorities or low income people out of your school. That is how zoning started after all... and no surprise we have schools with far more low income and minority students than other schools.

  18. Colin,

    If i'm paid to believe these things what does that say about teacher union bosses, politicians who accept union donations and the very teachers themselves. Does that mean they're all paid to believe in public schools no matter how good or bad they educate students?


    I recommend focusing on facts, not speculation about motives as it can be used against you just as easily.

  19. Society as a whole is what has made the CCSD K-12 fail, Electronic gadgets,music genre, pants on the ground, no respect for elders,no help with home work, broken families, etc... . You can pour all the money you want to into the failed system it won't fix it. Parents of the students have to fix it by getting off thier lazy butts and participating in thier childs education. Teachers would be much more sucsessful if the parents would reinforce the school system rules and quit making excuses for thier unruly smart@#$ kids. Making scholorships for underprivileged kids to attend better schools will do nothing if the kid does not have parents who are involved in his education in the first place.


  21. And yet not a single word from Mr. Gibbons, Roberta, Fink, et. al, about the district approving a quarter million dollars to Ken Turner - including 50,000 dollars for "relocation expenses" from his home to his home....

    Their agenda is to destroy teachers, at any cost, and funnel the money into the pockets of their masters. So, naturally, it makes sense that when their masters get paid, they are happy and remain silent. But let even the thought of teachers or students benefiting from one single dollar...Outrage and vitriol. They hate teachers, they hate students, they hate public education, simple as that

  22. Parents have choice. It is up to them to be involved enough to read the literature the school district sends to them and makes available online, on PBS, and in the news media. For the good and well being of the student, there are windows of time for parents to seek zone variances for their children to attend another school. Children must maintain proper behaviors and be also benefitting academically and socially during that variance as well.

    While my children were growing up in California, they had attended private school until there was a time when that was no longer be viable. Then, I, as their parent, did my research, and obtained a zone variance for one child (high school aged, while the younger still in elementary). For years, I drove her to and from school, or carpooled.

    The point is, Patrick, you are making a big deal out of nothing. It is about parents being responsible about their children, and seeing to it, that their children grow up to be responsible, productive citizens. Good Heavens!

    Here in the United States of America, you have that opportunity to make of life what you will.

    Administrators in public schools should NOT be making over $150,000 (with documented job related degrees and experience). This is a PUBLIC service job, not private industry. If there are any changes in public education, that is where they need to start!

    Blessings and Peace,

  23. Enter another category of parental involvement that can be negative to the students progress...the over demanding parent focused on grades as the only proof of success.

    They hover, berate, demean, demand and punish, with the result being a traumatized student so afraid of failing that they cannot succeed to their ability.

    Of course, there are degrees to each of those parental behaviors, but they have an opposite effect for students.

    It isn't only the uninvolved parent who can derail a students education. It isn't only in public schools. Students can freeze from the fear of failure instilled by an "involved" parent no matter what kind of school they go to.

    It can happen in any school environment because it is about the home environment.

    Family values mean little if the family relationships are not loving, nurturing, patient, respectful, tolerant and well balanced. That is not to say that discipline and expectations cannot be established, only in how they are implemented and maintained. This effects educational outcomes, as well as character development.

    Perhaps, we should have some serious parenting education, with parents and students together, as a way of transitioning to a more beneficial and effective educational and societal advancement and maturity.

    I think blaming teachers and the educational system is a convenient excuse and very narrow viewpoint.

    I want schools of all types to produce thinkers, not calculators and duplicating machine students.

    I have never forgotten the teachers who engaged me in thinking through my concepts and ideas. They taught me to be able to see the weaknesses and strengths of my thought and never gave me a sense of failing in either. Parents need to do the same thing. This builds self-esteem and frees the mind to learn.

    I encourage parents to go beyond their own educational level and learn more through free Internet courses so they too can engage their kids.

    How much do parents really care about their kids in the US? Sometimes, I think it is a matter of in word only. It seems competition and success are the main focus. These should be secondary to the close, loving, nurturing family relationships, which some other countries with high achievement place as a priority. We need a societal adjustment in the US, but it will take a long while to overcome the deficiency that exists at present.

  24. Joe, I try to stay away from more exact timetables.

    Anyone believing in reincarnation may be able to continue to effect change and experience the results.

    In the meantime, I continue to dream, or seek vision beyond the end of my nose. ;-)

    Remember that sometimes something good is not begun on a voluntary basis, no matter how old one is.

  25. Joe,

    "Those who need it won't go; those who don't need it just don't need it and won't go there a tiny bit."

    Those who don't need it, which I believe are not the majority, have something to offer by their example and experience. They become different from the learners. They are contributors. All they need is that spirit of giving rather than retiring as knowing it all, and therefore not wanting to waste their time.

    Personally, I think everyone has something to give and receive in the parenting arena.

  26. Joe,

    Don't think I am implying you are a know-it-all, and I do recognize your giving spirit. Keep it up, sir.

    We may not experience it at all times, but we can try to effect an evolution toward a more giving, peaceful, and unified society.

  27. For Nancy Agustin and those of us who remember having a great education, it is true, "The pendulum will swing the other side one day, and you will face your comeuppance."

    Ah, the "pendulum". Any seasoned educator will fondly recall the time when professional teachers were respected, and were given the latitude to offer thematic units, and use various modes of delivery, allowing students to explore and experience learning while in school, and having that experience reach into their homes. Children understood how connected everything is, and craved learning much more, often researching at levels that were beyond the scope of their current grade level. Learning at school was so engaging, that students were waiting for the gates to open in the morning, so they could "get there first" and sneak previews of what was in store for them in class that day.

    The establishment hasn't completely stamped out respect for teachers or love of learning. There will always be a child, willing to squeeze past security, arriving in a fun classroom that they feel they own forever, to siphon off some inspiration, some book, some little idea, to spur them on in their learning adventures. They know that they are always welcome in your or my room, or to catch you or me on the fly.

    As that "pendulum" swings, it will demolish all the barriers that the world has put between a student and their education. It will thrash assunder the isolation a child feels about receiving and growing an education within themselves. The seed fell into a crack in the asphalt and sprouted, its growth goes unhindered.

    Not surprisingly, at one time, teachers were told to stop using the things they knew worked. Now, teachers are being asked to RETURN to using those things. YES, the pendulum has begun to swing back, thankfully. The administrative "experts" have nearly killed education and the love of learning, and are now realizing the error of their ways. Now we can begin the task of strengthening what remains with the "tried and true". Sweet pendulum.

    Blessings and Peace,

  28. What struck me as interesting is that both Dr. Horsford and Mr. Gibbons commented on a plan whose details have not been disclosed. Talk about a straw man.

    While the idea of alternative school opportunities is appealing, those opportunities are not currently available to any great degree in Nevada and, regardless of legislation or availability of tax credits, are not likely to become available. Private and charter schools exist to serve a particular clientele....religious, cultural, scientific, occupational, etc., while public education serves the entire population of eligible children. In the US that includes the outstanding through the mediocre to the failures. A private school or charter school is unlikely to alter or reduce its standards so as to recruit from that general population as to do so would be to compromise its stated goals, although it might cherry pick applicants so as to strengthen its program.

    Without seeing much detail but comparing this ethereal "plan" to other similar ideas it appears that this is simply another sop to the forces who wish to diminish public education in the US. That it is defended by Patrick Gibbons, a noted failure, speaks loudly.

  29. Collins etal: I'm not trying to figure out how to fix CCSD--that's their job. I simply refuse the hype of more money, more money, more money. They can't figure it out? Teach the basics--like we did for generations with great success.

  30. The options to take vouchers elsewhere is to allow students a CHANCE while CCSD drowns in it's own fluids. Public K-12 has stolen enough from generations of students who now do NOT have a quality HS diploma nor proficiency in the basics. Let's allow kids a chance.

  31. @Roberta.....vouchers for what? To be used where? Gorman, Faith Lutheran? Some restricted religious academy which teaches the Bible or the Koran of the Teachings of L.Ron Hubbard? Vouchers are a feel-good marketing scam on the part of conservatives who dislike anything public but cannot come up with alternatives which work. Vouchers are just another way to diminish public education. You have previously stated that public education is "broken" that it "can't be fixed" are so pathetically ignorant of what goes on in public schools. Perhaps you should volunteer one of your many out with business classes, volunteer as a mentor, teach remedial math or english.....or start your own school with the other high-and like-minded conservatives who regularly comment much but contribute little.

  32. Supply and demand. Provide the demand and the supply will appear.