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John L. Smith: ESAs, Possible Legionnaires' And A Farewell To A Southern Fried Friend

Nevada’s controversial new school choice law is before the state Supreme Court, which in the coming weeks or months will determine whether it’s implemented or stopped on procedural grounds. But the law of unintended consequences is in full effect.

A lawsuit filed by the Rogers Family Foundation is attempting to illustrate what informed critics of the law contend will be a devastating impact on public education funding in a state with a troubled track record of K-12 education performance. It will only get worse if the funds parents receive to send their children to a private school are diverted from the public school general fund.

And given the fact that many private schools have proud religious affiliations, you might ask yourself whatever happened to the concept of the separation of church and state? A lower court judge’s go-ahead aside, blending public dollars into private religious education institutions bucks a long tradition in the Silver State -- one many observers believed was settled long ago.

The easiest call is to write off this controversy as a battle between old guards: Anti-teachers union religious conservatives who have long sought to undermine public schools as inferior education factories; and Godless labor-linked liberals for whom the answer to every school shortcoming is to throw more money into the mix. But that’s too simplistic.

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Trouble with the extremes is, it short sells the fact there are scores of devoted parents who are tired of a so-so public school system for their children. Many envy the pretty thought that private schools all but guarantee academic success. Their challenge, I suspect, will be found in the reality that the state’s school choice stipend won’t buy much at the better private schools in Southern Nevada.

It will, however, bring a new business model to religious private schools.

And there may be an unintended consequence in the future: If your children don’t attend public school, won’t you be less willing to vote for the next school building bond or tax increase to support public education?

There are many more issues that, while impossible to predict, have the potential to do more harm than good to the education system.

Credit both sides of the ongoing school choice debate for sincerity. To do less is insulting and misses the greater meaning of the struggle: An increasingly desperate plea for a better education for our children.

Keeping public school dollars from private school coffers was an easy call years ago and should be again today.


  The family of the late military veteran Charles Demos, the former Boulder City Veterans Home resident who died last year in part from the effects of Legionnaire’s disease found at the facility, continues to push for a full federal inquiry to determine the number of other veterans who may have contracted the deadly disease. Attorneys for the family are filing more legal paperwork, and some -- not all -- members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation are weighing in on the subject. Look for more developments soon.


And, finally, a warm farewell to an old friend of catfish lovers throughout the Las Vegas Valley, Charlie Ghormley. He died recently at age 84 and was a former Nevada Test Site worker, but many Las Vegans know him best as the man who helped usher in customers at the wonderful Hush Puppy restaurant on West Charleston Boulevard.

For those unfamiliar with the Hush Puppy, it has for decades been home to some of the best deep-fried catfish and down-home Southern cooking to be found for many miles. Charlie was born in Arkansas before coming to Southern Nevada with his family and wife, Virginia.

Long before Las Vegas became known as a place for celebrity restaurateurs, Charlie Ghormley was downright famous on his stretch of Charleston Boulevard.

For KNPR, I’m John L. Smith

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