The year was 1955 and the late Milton Friedman, founder of and cheerleader for the Chicago School of Economics Unfettered Free Market Capitalism, presented the idea that “school vouchers were the ultimate expression of free choice for families.”  This is the same argument that the National Rifle Association (NRA) uses to quell any and every effort at gun control legislation: it’s a matter of America’s fundamental freedoms to own, carry and use an AR-17 with a 100 round clip of deadly bullets anywhere and anytime.  All right. Let me not go down this pathway.

But while it’s taken sixty years for Milton Friedman’s dream of ultimate choice for America’s families to come to fruition, Nevada has finally made Friedman’s dream for America’s families come true.  School vouchers are nothing new – they’ve been around and expanding in states and local school districts around the country for several decades now.  But in no other state has a legislature adopted legislation to allow every state citizen to opt-out of the pubic school system and receive money ( BTW our money too) to enroll their kids in charter and private schools.  It’s a national first. 

How did this happen?  Well in January of this year, Nevada’s citizens elected state legislators to a Republican majority for the first time since 1929.  Since the Great Depression.  So, what is one of the first things that newly empowered Red legislature does?  Basically destroys the state’s public school system.  Remember, Nevada is our prima donna gambling state so I guess this penchant for gambling – in this case gambling on the future of Nevada’s kids – has washed over into pubic policy.  On the other hand, we have a similar phenomenon playing itself out in Brownback’s Kansas.

There have been several recent studies that show that charter schools on average have no better educational outcomes than public schools.  So I guess I would question the rationale for the Nevada State Legislature taking the action that it did.  Until you factor in the Free Market Freidmanite factor.  Ahhh!  So that’s it!  The privatization of our educational system so that private corporations (non-profits though they might be) can make a profit from educating Nevada’s kids. 

But wait just a minute.  Data “suggests” that as the increase in school voucher programs, the establishment of charter schools using public school funds to support themselves, the privatization of our public educational system, the rise of home schooling, the educational outcomes of our students has declined.  It’s been over thirty years now so one could expect to see some results emerging from this great conservative experiment by now. 

And here they are:

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) who tracks worldwide educational outcomes, the United States has not been faring all that well lately when compared to our Western peer nations.    

Ummm.  Let’s see.  Back in 2003 the exceptional USofA ranked 23rd in Math behind the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary.  For reading we ranked 18th and in Science we ranked 29th.  

In 2012, the latest year for which data is available, the exceptional USofA Ranked 36th in Math, 23rd in Reading and 27th in Science.  Well, at least the exceptional USofA gained a couple of points in Science. And we should, I suppose, be grateful for this.  

Direct connection between the privatization of our public school system and the declining educational outcomes of our students?  Maybe not. Then again maybe so since when you consider the turmoil that has rocked the public school system over the past thirty years and the misguided attempts at “improving” the system, surely this experiment has had some, if an unmeasurable, impact.  To me, this is what the data show.   It's been a failure. 

Touted as the solution to the poor performance of Nevada’s public school system as well as offering families freedom of choice (akin according to the right wingers to the choices available to families in their gun purchases) one might want to consider the “whys” for the state’s poor showing in the public school arena.  I’m wondering if the Legislature considered the following:

Nevada has been among the 10 lowest-spending states when it comes to funding public education.  According to the U. S. Census Bureau, (a nefarious organization if there ever was one) Nevada spent $8,339 per student in 2013, a combination of local, state and Federal money.  The national average for 2013 was $10,700.  Below are the 2013 spending amounts for a few other states:

Maryland:       $13,829
Delaware:       $13, 833
Connecticut:    $16,631
DC:                 $17,953
New York:       $19,818

Even nearby Wyoming spent $15,700 per student in 2013 around 50% more than Nevada.

Surely there can be no connection between money spent on our public school students and their educational outcomes could there?  No, of course not because in the words of Milton Friedman and the NRA it’s “freedom of choice that matters” including, I guess, the freedom to fail and the continuing adoption of failed policies.

Now I am admittedly biased against privatization of public services so I guess you’ll have to keep this in mind.  But after thirty years of conservative “solutions” – Vouchers, No Child Left Behind, Charter Schools, Home Schooling, Creationism – the data suggests that they haven’t worked.  Or am I mis-interpreting the data?  This, of course, would be the conservative answer to my biased view of public school privatization. 

Have a good day. 



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