Mother asks Sisolak to support Nevada Opportunity Scholarship program

Governor Sisolak and Members of the Nevada State Legislature:

Let me begin by wishing each of you a happy new year and by congratulating you on the successful campaigns you ran.

I know you don’t have a lot of time to settle in before the legislative session begins this month, but I want to share the cry of this mother’s heart as you consider education during the session, specifically keeping the Nevada Opportunity Scholarship program (AB165) as it currently exists.

I am a mother of two children who, along with my husband, works diligently to provide the best future possible for our children. A key element in all this is ensuring they have the best education possible, and early on we felt that public education offered a viable solution. Over time, though, we did not see our children growing academically, which coincided with the state’s educational scores and rankings dropping to the bottom of the nation. With lingering doubt as to what was the right course for our children’s education, an introductory letter from one of my children’s teachers at the beginning of his freshman year of high school brought clarity to our concern and how we needed to move forward.

When enrolling my oldest for high school, we received an e-mail from one of his teachers, which featured the following quote: “The aim of a liberal education is to unsettle presumptions, to de-familiarize the familiar, to reveal what is going on beneath and behind appearances, to disorient young people and to help them to find ways to reorient themselves.”

This quote was quite unsettling to my husband and me. The aim of education should not be to undermine family-built foundations or strip away what has already been learned. Youth are disoriented enough without having their fragile confidence unsettled. Since receiving that note, our presumption that public schools fit all students equally was indeed “unsettled,” and since that time, we have found that private schools have offered our children an academically challenging environment to grow, both in knowledge and beliefs, without judgment and without being required to conform to someone else’s perception of correctness.

Public-private partnerships inspire creativity for a greater good, and the Nevada Opportunity Scholarship is a prime example of this. The opportunity that businesses and individuals have had to invest in the future of Nevada’s workforce by providing scholarship dollars, without impacting state revenues or expenses, has changed the lives of hundreds of Nevada’s children. To consider supporting any legislation that would eliminate these opportunities would risk trapping aspirational students from families of modest means by decreasing the opportunity to change the trajectory of their lives. Further, the classroom space that is created by these opportunities reduces student-to-teacher ratios in public schools, thereby helping provide more individualized attention for public school students as well.

My family and I are not politically-motivated, driven or active, but this issue has not only captured our attention but that of many we know, even those without children potentially being affected by alteration of this legislation. School choice puts students first and allows every child to succeed. We spend too much time teaching to the test rather than finding ways to keep students invested. Every decision in our schools should be guided by the needs of students.

In closing, on behalf of the almost 2,100 low-income students in Nevada who receive private, means-tested funding to experience a more personalized education based on individual needs and circumstances, I implore you to support all Nevada’s children when it comes time to vote on the future of AB165. And when that time comes, I urge you to vote YES to continue this life-changing opportunity.

Best regards,

Stephanie Simpson

Carson City


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