Nevada High Court Considers Biggest School Choice Program Ever

Published August 3, 2016

On Friday, the Nevada Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the state’s education savings account program, which has never gone into effect because of the lawsuit. If/when it’s implemented, the program would apply to nearly all K–12 children in the state.

That makes it both the nation’s largest school choice plan and a significant test for the relatively new concept of education savings accounts (ESAs), which allow parents to divide up their child’s state education dollars among different education providers rather than turning it all over to one school. The court’s decision will affect 18 other states considering similar legislation.

RedefineED has a wrapup highlighting main points in the oral arguments:

It would be unconstitutional for the state simply to hand taxpayer money directly to religious institutions[, argued school choice attorney Paul Clement]. But it can create a health savings account program that helps patients to pay for surgery at a Catholic hospital. It can offer a daycare subsidy that some parents might use at parochial schools. And the government can send firefighters to battle blazes that endanger church buildings.

Similarly, Clement argued, the state created ESAs to provide an important public service — education. If some parents used them to educate their children in religious schools, that wouldn’t mean the government was propping up religious institutions in violation of the state constitution.

Tim Keller, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which has intervened in the case on behalf parents who want to access ESAs, reinforced that point. He argued his clients were more than “inconsequential conduits used by the state to funnel money to religious institutions.”

‘Parents make genuine, independent choices under this program,’ he said. ‘The state provides them with flexible education spending accounts, and it is the parents who decide where and how to spend their monies.’

Hispanics for School Choice submitted an amicus brief.

SOURCE: Cato Institute, Las Vegas Review-Journal, RedefineED,


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