The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the state’s current education savings account (ESA) program, ruling in Schwartz v. Lopez that funds allocated for public schools cannot be diverted to private ESAs. However, the court also ruled in favor of ESAs as long as the funding comes from a different government program. Such funds would then “belong to parents,” the ruling stated, and would no longer be “public funds” – which would allow parents to use the funds to pay for tuition at parochial schools.
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“This bipolar ruling only delays the inevitable. Once the legislature fixes the technicality of how the accounts are funded, parents, rather than the education bureaucracy, will have the power of the purse. Parents will finally be free to fully direct the education of their children to a vast array of education options that specifically meet the needs of how their children learn best.”
“This ruling is ultimately a win for Nevada students and will open the door for other similar school choice programs across the country. The Nevada legislature now has a duty to fund the ESA program properly. Parents and their children will then be able to take full advantage of a program that lets them customize the learning experience to fit their needs and escape a one-size-fits-all system.”
“This is an outstanding ruling in favor of parental choice. It provides a clear path for Nevada legislators to clarify the funding mechanism so that the program can move forward on a sound constitutional basis. The ruling also provides encouragement for legislators in other states to pursue this innovative and flexible educational choice program.
“The injunction of the program should present only a minor setback to the school choice movement. Justice James Hardesty is to be commended on delivering a well-written, clearly argued, and fairly decided opinion on all three contested points. He does not misconstrue constitutional provisions and text, but simply applies them to the law as written, which is what the courts should do. This ruling should be forwarded to U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts with a note saying, ‘This is a good example of what you should have done with the Affordable Care Act, rather than becoming a quasi-legislator and rewriting the law yourself.'”
“The court rightly ruled the same way the U.S. Supreme Court did in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris in 2002, essentially saying that the public money goes to the family, not to the religious school. While the court did strike down the ESA funding mechanism, it shouldn’t require more than a legislative tweak to fix that.”
“Reporters summarizing this ruling must be careful not to assume it says private schools do not perform a public service despite educating children to an objectively higher standard than public schools do. Education savings accounts and the private educators they can fund are indeed a form of public education. They use public goods as a means to ensure the public is well-educated. The best research has repeatedly and overwhelmingly shown that privately provided education does a better job of producing well-educated citizens than government-provided education.
“The Nevada attorney general is right to call this a win for the state’s children, as well as children all across the country whose elected representatives were watching this case. The court allows for public education to occur through multiple channels parents choose, and this will mean better education for more children, especially over time. Now lawmakers just need to step up and handle the technicalities so this innovative program can meet families’ needs.”
“The Nevada Supreme Court’s strange ruling against the funding mechanism of ESAs may lead to even better public policy: Using refundable tax credits administered by the state’s revenue department. Then the educrats will have no hand in the program’s administration.”
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