Judge finalizes Nevada Supreme Court’s ruling striking down school choice funding method
This story first appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on November 22, 2016. Read the original story here.
Complying with the state Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down Nevada’s Education Savings Account program, a Carson City judge issued a permanent injunction against the state law that created the accounts.
While opponents of the legislation tout the final formality as an end to the program, proponents still have hope that it will be reintroduced in the next legislative session.
The law known as SB 302 would have given roughly $5,100 per student to families that sought education outside the public school system.
Two lawsuits took the case to the Supreme Court, which took issue only with the way the program was funded. While the court rejected the idea of using the state Distributive School Account to pay for the measure, it upheld the program’s general concept.
The final ruling called for a permanent injunction, which Carson City Judge James Wilson signed Thursday. The decision also requires an injunction in a similar lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
But the ruling still leaves hope for leading Republicans in the Legislature and Gov. Brian Sandoval, who are working to find a different way to fund the program.
The Nevada School Choice Partnership, which supports the program, is urging parents to petition legislators to find alternative funding. The group has collected over 1,000 signatures so far.
“The court saw the potential of these accounts to help change the lives of over 8,000 children who have applied so far for an ESA in Nevada,” the group said in a statement. “The ruling made it clear that parents have the ability to utilize whatever educational options they believe will work best for their children.”
Meanwhile, the opposing Educate Nevada Now group argues that the injunction and Supreme Court decision put an end to the program.
Successfully resurrecting the program would require income limits for those who apply, argued Amanda Morgan, the group’s legal director.
“We think for this program to go forward, they’re going to have to do more than find a funding source,” she said. “They’re really going to have to change the bill to create these sorts of limits on it.”
The Las Vegas legislator who crafted SB 302, Republican Sen. Scott Hammond, is drafting a new bill that would include a yearly cap on the number of students in the program. But he said he would not be open to introducing an income limit for those who apply for a savings account.
“This gives everyone an opportunity to decide what’s best for their children,” he said. “I’m not really in a mindset of discussing those limitations to a program because I think it’s for everybody.”