Nevada parents this year received one of the most marvelous gifts lawmakers can provide: the ability for parents to customize the education of their own children.

That was the assessment Wednesday by the president of the Heritage Foundation, former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, of last month’s passage into state law of Education Savings Accounts.

“This is what we’ve needed for years,” said DeMint, keynoting a Las Vegas education-reform event. “I know from raising four children — in the same environment, with the same parents — that all four were different.”

“They all had different learning styles,” he continued, “different interests, different aptitudes. And it wasn’t fair to force them all into the same mold.

“This idea of giving everyone the same thing at the same time in the same place, and saying that’s equality — it’s not. It’s the worst form of tyranny, when you recognize that every child is different.

“And the ability of a parent to customize education, is probably one of the most wonderful gifts you can give,” said DeMint.

Nevada’s Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are available to virtually all Silver State parents, and allow them to control and direct as they see fit, for the education of their children, a significant chunk of the money the state normally allocates to the K-12 education of each child.  

Sponsoring the legislation was state Senator Scott Hammond, himself a Las Vegas public schoolteacher for 15 years.

Currently, the accounts will hold an annual per-student grant of little more than $5,000, based on a legislative formula specifying 90 percent of the per-pupil Distributive School Account state funding allotment.

Participating parents will sign contracts with the state. The bill in its final form, as signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval, can be downloaded here.

The broad scope of the legislation makes it of real national significance, said DeMint.

Every time important, parent-empowering reforms succeed at the state level, it strengthens the national case for such reforms, he said.

“So I particularly want to thank Sen. Scott Hammond for leading,” said DeMint, addressing personally the state senator, who was in the audience. “Because of you, a number of states are going to be inspired.

“And every time you succeed, like you’ve done here, Scott, you’ve done more for education at the national level, than anybody in the House and the Senate. Because they’re not going to be able to pass something like this there until more states do it.”

DeMint spoke at the luncheon phase of the event, following a panel discussion and question-and-answer session addressing ESA implementation issues and featuring four nationally recognized education policy analysts:

  • Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice in Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Lindsay Burke, an education-policy fellow at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.,
  • Jonathan Butcher, education director for the Goldwater Institute of Phoenix, Arizona, and
  • Matthew Ladner, senior advisor of policy and research at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, based in Tallahassee, Florida.

Co-sponsoring the event with the Heritage and Friedman Foundations was the Nevada Policy Research Institute.