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December 14, 2018

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Data: Majority of Nevadans seeking school vouchers live in upscale suburbs

This week, the Nevada State Treasurer’s Office released a trove of data regarding applications for Nevada’s education savings accounts.

It’s the first peek into who is applying for Nevada’s voucher-like program, the most sweeping of its kind in the entire country. The data dump included a breakdown of 3,067 applications by categories like the age of the student and economic status.

Some of the highlights: A majority of the applications come from Clark County, most were filed on behalf of kids ages 5 through 8, 650 applicants claimed to be within 185 percent of the federal poverty line and 207 involve a student with a disability, according to the treasurer’s office.

But the most interesting data came in the form of a breakdown of all the applications by ZIP code. And that data tells an interesting story:

A majority of applications come from the wealthier suburbs of Las Vegas

This shouldn’t come as a big surprise to many opponents of the quasi-voucher program, who tend to criticize the system as catering to wealthy families who want to get out of the public school system. Of the 10 ZIP codes with the most ESA applications, seven are in communities located outside of the 215 Beltway. The ZIP code with the most applications is 89052 in Henderson, which encompasses Henderson Executive Airport and the Anthem master-planned community. Of those same 10 ZIP codes, the least wealthy is 89117 — covering parts of the west valley including Peccole Ranch and the Lakes — with a median household income of around $54,000, which is still well above the state average. The top 10 ZIP codes account for a full third of all applications submitted for the ESA program.

Very few applications are coming from the inner city

Perhaps the most striking piece of data is the relatively low number of applications coming from the inner city of Las Vegas, the home of many low-income, minority and English-language learning students attending schools primarily in the Clark County School District. At the same time that the poverty rate in inner city ZIP codes like 89101, 89102 and 89169 hovers around 30 percent, the areas only account for a total of 33 ESA applications. By comparison, 104 applications were filed in 89135, home of Bishop Gorman and Faith Lutheran, two of the biggest private schools in the state, where the poverty rate is 4.8 percent.

Applications tend to come from communities with high private school enrollments

The areas with the most ESA applications are also interesting for another reason: They tend to have fairly high enrollments in private schools already. Six out of 10 of the ZIP codes with the most ESA applications have existing private school enrollments in the double digits, according to the latest U.S. Census data. The highest is in one swath of Summerlin, where K-12 private school enrollment sits at 27.5 percent. That ZIP code, 89135, also is responsible for the second highest number of ESA applications. That’s compared to low-income ZIP codes like 89106, where private school enrollment is only 3.6 percent. There were only 14 applications from that ZIP code.

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