The education budget is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for the lawmakers who subscribe to Nevada’s latest “no new taxes” leader, Gov. Brian Sandoval, in his first legislative session. He already seems to have warmed up his huge veto stamp, no doubt inherited from former Gov. Jim Gibbons.
Thinking out of the box for a minute, Nevada should adopt the mode of operation used in Tanzania in East Africa. Families of students up through high school pay for their student to attend school, which is mandatory for all youngsters through the high school years. Post K-12 education is funded by the government. University education is free for all, but they first must qualify for the privilege by achieving certain test scores.
In Nevada, increases in fees for certain state-run functions are rising, therefore public school education would be just another such increase. Families could have their student or students attend any public school of their choosing, while families with no children would pay an educational fee similar to the minimum fee charged to register a motor vehicle after it reaches a certain age.
Once the fees for each of their students is paid — the fee being based on a graduated schedule depending on verified income, family size, etc. — the family is given a chit for each student, which is then given to the teacher of the family’s choosing. The collected chits of each teacher would determine that teacher’s pay. If the teacher doesn’t receive enough chits to guarantee a livable wage, then the teacher can either stay on in the job at a non-livable wage or quit, receiving no unemployment benefits or retirement if they leave of their own volition. Whether they stay or leave, all teachers would be required to meet certain job requirements to maintain their employment.
Teachers would not receive all the fees from their students for their pay; a portion of the fees would go to the maintenance of the schools. The use of buses also would require a fee. If a parent wants to have their student ride a bus to school and if it were available in their area, the parent would pay an additional fee. Everything in public school would be fee-based. If parents don’t pay enough fees to make the program or service pay for itself, then that program is eliminated.
Pay for coaches and administration would also be paid out of the fee for each student. Just like many individuals, governments now are finding they can do more with less. If the fees don’t fund administrations at their current levels, then those functions would be cut back accordingly.
Parents could purchase books for their student from an approved list according to subject and grade or they could rent the books, but each student would be required to have a set of books.
The state then can focus on paying to maintain a quality university system. The money that would have been spent on K-12 education would augment the expenditures available to the post-secondary schools.
Students will still be required to attend K-12 schooling until either a certain age or until he or she meets the standards to move to the next level. If a student can graduate from high school early, the parents would end up paying less. All fees paid for educating their student would be deductible by the parent from their income taxes.
Since parents are now paying an additional fee directly for their student to gain a high school education, respect for the educational process just might improve. Everything seems to become more precious when there is a buy-in, whether it is a cold beer or filet mignon. What better to spend your money on than your own children?
Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.