Nevada Measure Offers School Choice Option

By: Auburn Hutton
By: Auburn Hutton

Nevada lawmakers are looking at a bill that would give Washoe County parents a choice about where their kids attend school. No zoning, no restrictions, no assigned school locations...so what do local parents think of all this educational freedom?

Some parents say if given a choice, they would choose a school for their kids based on academics. Others say they would rely on the schools reputation, but for some, Reno's public schools just aren't making the grade.

Kim Williams has a 17-year-old son. "I'd send him to a private school. I would. Reno High's been a lot of trouble for us. A lot of bad influences."

The new bill would let any student attend any school, provided lawmakers appropriate funds to bus those kids all over town.

The bill would allow district officials to create school choice locally, but it wouldn't require them to.

Washoe District officials are looking at the new bill, but before they're willing to take a position on it, they first have a lot of questions.

"I don't know how you could have a complete system of open enrollment, so that any of the 63,000 students to choose any of the 95 schools to go to. I don't know how you would design a transportation system to do that unless you had door to door limousine service for every kid," said Steve Mulvenon of Washoe County School District.

Also, county officials worry that school choice could lead to further racial and ethnic divide in Reno schools, not to mention more class crowding than already exists. Still though, they say the idea, if proven, has a lot of potential.

"There's something to be said for the concept of school choice, to allow parents to send their kids where they want to," said Mulvenon.

Parents agree. They say they like the idea of schools fighting over who gets to educate their kids.

"I think it would be great. It would add competition. If you have competition, education would go up," said Stuart Kimball, whose kids attend school in Washoe.

Parents say improved education is the selling point since they all want what's best for their kids.


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