Nevada treasurer’s office again targeted for continuing to accept ESA applications

This story first appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Read the original version here.

State Treasurer Dan Schwartz is making an “awkward attempt” to gain political power by purposely violating a court order which halted the school choice program, according to a letter sent to the Nevada attorney general’s office this week.

Officials in the treasurer’s office say they’re just continuing to prepare for the 2017-18 school year in case a funding source comes through.

If the treasurer doesn’t stop encouraging parents and accepting applications to the Education Savings Account program, parents from the state Supreme Court case will pursue more legal action, according to the letter signed by Bradley Schrager, attorney on behalf of the parents from Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Shulman and Rabkin, LLP.

Continuing to include information about the program online and accepting applications is “deliberately misleading Nevadans by acting as though the SB 302 program remains in effect,” according to Schrager’s letter.

In addition, spending taxpayer money to process applications on a program that doesn’t exist is a waste, Amanda Morgan, the legal director of Educate Nevada Now, said Tuesday.

“(Schwartz) is basically restarting the program, that’s the best way to describe it,” Morgan said.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s office is reviewing the letter, but had no further comment at this time, spokeswoman Monica Moazez said in an email.

The latest demand comes a week after the ACLU expressed similar concerns about Schwartz accepting new applications.

The treasurer’s office says it can continue to accept applications, citing information from the state attorney general.

Schwartz’s office wants to be “as ready as they can be” if lawmakers can work out a new funding mechanism and re-implement the program, said Grant Hewitt, the treasurer’s chief of staff.

“If we’re not doing anything between now and then, there’s no possible way we can fund for the next school year,” Hewitt said.

Grant was unable to provide how many applications had been submitted since the court decision, but the latest application count stands at roughly 8,200.

The Nevada Supreme Court struck down part of the law in September, ruling that while the idea of using taxpayer money for private education was constitutional, funding for the savings account program could not come from the Distributive School Account.

Since the state Supreme Court ruled on the issue, Democrats have regained control of the legislature, which could create another barrier. Even so, Gov. Brian Sandoval said he plans to include a separate funding source for education accounts in his proposed 2017-19 budget.