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Children play at the Sierra Nevada Academy Charter School preschool on March 14, 2017. Photo by David Calvert.

By Abbi Whitaker

I am a proud Democrat. I am a strong supporter of public schools. And I am appalled beyond measure that the Assembly Education Committee seeks to limit the ability of Nevada parents to select the schools and teachers that will best meet the needs of their children.

AB 462, introduced on March 25, is clear in its intent. It flatly bans the approval of any application for a new public charter school until Jan. 1, 2021. It is equally clear that members of the committee are playing politics with the futures of thousands of Nevada children.

My children are among those who benefit from the excellence provided by public charter school education. My son and daughter thrive under the guidance of caring, skillful educators at Doral Academy of Northern Nevada, an arts-integrated public charter school in Reno. More than 6,400 students are on the waitlist for Doral Academies statewide. Other public charter schools report similar interest.

Traditional public schools and their thousands of dedicated school teachers certainly deserve our support. For that reason, I was among the many public leaders of the successful effort to win taxpayer approval for additional funding for school repair and maintenance for the Washoe County School District. I recognize the challenges faced by all educators.

But no one believes (or should believe) that a one-size-fits-all approach to K-12 education is the best route. Children have different needs. Families have different goals. Attempts to force all children into an identical educational mold are bound to fail, for some — and this failure will affect these students throughout their lives. Quality educational options help ensure more success for more kids.

The proposed moratorium on new public charter schools also means that existing schools will remain crowded, because no new public charter schools will be opened to reduce the heavy load on our teachers and existing school facilities.

The people of Nevada would rise up in anger if any of our lawmakers sought, without explanation, to limit college attendance in the state to only one university. We all recognize that different colleges and universities meet different needs — and so the state supports many different higher education options. This ought to be equally true of K-12 education.

The Assembly Education Committee has not yet offered a public explanation for its last-minute introduction of this sweeping and damaging ban on approval of the new public charter schools. In other parts of the nation, public charter schools have become a partisan issue. I trust that AB 462 was driven neither by special interests nor by partisan politics. The welfare of our children and the opportunity for parents to choose a school that best meets their needs are far too important to become an exercise in political gamesmanship.

Members of the Assembly Education Committee need to provide a full explanation of their intent in introducing this legislation. Voters then can decide whether that explanation meets the expectation of all Nevadans. Children’s futures, not politics, must guide educational policy in Nevada.

Abbi Whitaker is the cofounder and president of the Abbi Agency, a PR firm in Northern Nevada. In 2016, the Abbi Agency helped lead the effort to pass WC-1 in Washoe County which led to an increase in revenue for the Washoe County School District.

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