In April 2015, Nevada implemented the nation’s first universal education savings account (ESA) program, which is designed to allow parents to use some or all of the funding that would go toward their child’s traditional public education on things such as private school tuition, textbooks, and tutoring.
In August, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Nevada over its ESA program, alleging it violates the state’s Blaine Amendment, a state constitutional ban against using public money for “sectarian purposes.” Blaine amendments, which exist in many states across the country, were borne out of anti-Catholic bigotry in the 1800s.
In May, Nevada District Judge Eric Johnson dismissed the lawsuit, ruling, “The state has no influence or control over how any parent makes his or her genuine and independent choice to spend his or her ESA funds.”
Johnson also wrote in his decision, “Parents, if they choose to use the ESA program, must expend the ESA funds for secular education goods and services, even if they choose to obtain those services from religion affiliated schools.”
The ACLU is now appealing the ruling. The organization’s legal director in Nevada, Amy Rose, said in a statement the purpose of the appeal is “to cease private religious schools’ ability to use taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate and discriminate against students on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and other grounds.”
Despite the ACLU’s mission statement, which claims to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States,” this most recent appeal exposes the organization’s true goal of destroying the liberty granted to parents and their children by the ESA law. The only thing the ACLU cares about defending and preserving here are entrenched, traditional government schools.
After all, as Joy Pullmann, a senior education research fellow for The Heartland Institute, points out, Johnson’s decision “is in line with long-standing nationwide precedent in various federal and state courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The Nevada State Education Association is also — not surprisingly — opposed to the ESA program, namely because it “siphons money away from public schools,” an assertion not based on reality. And never mind that earlier this year, Nevada ranked dead-last in the nation for education quality. Even if ESAs do deplete public schools of their funding (they actually raise per-pupil funding in public schools), what’s the point of funding a public institution that has proven incapable of fulfilling its purpose? More money will not solve Nevada’s education problem. Empowering 96 percent of Nevada students to be eligible for ESAs, however, will.
Medicare or Medicaid recipients are free to use their taxpayer-funded benefits at religiously affiliated hospitals, and there are countless other ways taxpayer money is spent to fund organizations with philosophical or religious affiliations — Planned Parenthood comes to mind. Yet, the ACLU does not protest.
There’s just something about public schools that serves as a catalyst for leftists to do everything they can to ensure freedom of choice is halted at any cost. Their insistence that traditional public schools should be considered sacred and funded extravagantly without any questions is bewildering at best. The ACLU should be happy Nevada’s ESA program gives parents the liberty to educate their children in a way they, togetherwith the government (program funds must be authorized), see fit.
Why is the ACLU opposed to parental choice, opposed to parents giving their children a better education, and opposed to freeing kids from a failing system and giving them the flexibility to escape a detrimental environment? Because the American Civil Liberties Union has nothing to do with liberty.