I am a Las Vegas native who attended public school my entire school career. Yet I count myself lucky that I’ve been able to choose a private school for my children through the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which comes by its funding through donations from businesses around the state (scholarships are paid for by private dollars, and the state then gives tax credits to the companies that fund them). I believe my children would be failing in a traditional public school—as too many Nevada kids currently are.
For one thing, I’ve watched the news and seen the disaster of virtual learning in the Clark County School District during the pandemic. My children are fourth and first grade students at Montessori Visions Academy, and they’ve been able to continue to attend school, safely, during the pandemic. But I also know that my children are able to succeed in their school because its learning approach builds on their natural talents and human capacity in a way that our conventional classrooms often fail to do.
Most children do not learn well just sitting in a room for six hours a day, writing on paper and being forced to listen to someone speak. Many are kinesthetic or visual learners; they need to do things with their hands in order to learn. There are times that children want to draw, read, do math, or learn an interesting history lesson, but they are not allowed to follow their intuitive curiosity because that’s not what is being taught at that moment—or maybe that day. This stifles children’s natural love for learning.
In contrast, the Montessori approach allows my children to learn what they need to—but at their own pace! They don’t have to fall behind waiting for other kids to catch up or feel like they are behind if another student learns faster.
As a public school student in Las Vegas, I was never fully engaged and, along with many of my peers, barely graduated. We all know that Nevada is ranked extremely low when it comes to quality of education. That needs to be fixed. While we are working on fixing our education system to be more in tune with how children learn, providing families scholarships to access educational choices that meet their children's individual needs and even take the load off of the poor CCSD teachers is a fantastic place to start.
A recent report came out saying that more students in CCSD were given D and F grades during Fall 2020 compared to Fall 2019. The school system is failing thousands of children. Our state leaders need to take charge and give more options to our children. Only 1,055 kids in Nevada are lucky enough to receive financial help to attend a private school of their choice.
I’m a single mom and fortunate; I received an Opportunity Scholarship for my son to attend his school. This program made it possible for him to receive a better education, reading several grade levels above his own. However, after applying for a scholarship for my daughter, I found out that due to changes made during the 2019 legislative session, we would not be able to receive the scholarship for her. To put more icing on this unfortunate cake, my son also lost his scholarship. I know several families with special needs children who have lost their life-changing scholarships, as well.
It has been proven over and over that what people learn when they are children determines who they grow up to be! If we are not teaching our children to love learning, and if parents can’t choose what they think is best for their children, then please ask yourself, what kind of society and future are we building for this country?
It breaks my heart to hear a child say they hate learning! It is vital that we have this life-changing scholarship program to attend the schools of our choice. State leaders need to do the right thing and let students back into the Opportunity Scholarship program.
Sydney Ramsdell is a single mother of two in Las Vegas and believes strongly in the power of a good education early in life as well as our natural human right to choose that for our children. Her children attend Montessori Visions Academy.