The public schools enroll 452,000 students: 41% Latino, 36% White, 10% African American, and 6% Asian, with 53% living in poverty and 16% learning English. The State spends $8,026 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“The legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, literary, scientific, mining, mechanical, agricultural, and moral improvements, and also provide for a superintendent of public instruction and by law prescribe the manner of appointment, term of office and the duties thereof.” Nev. Const. art. 11, § 1.
“The legislature shall provide for a uniform system of common schools, by which a school shall be established and maintained in each school district at least six months in every year ... and the legislature may pass such laws as will tend to secure a general attendance of the children in each school district upon said public schools.” Nev. Const. art. 11, § 2.
“In addition to other means provided for the support and maintenance of said university and common schools, the legislature shall provide for their support and maintenance by direct legislative appropriation from the general fund, upon the presentation of budgets in the manner required by law.” Nev. Const. art. 11, § 6.1.
“During a regular session of the Legislature, before any other appropriation is enacted to fund a portion of the state budget for the next ensuing biennium, the Legislature shall enact one or more appropriations to provide the money the Legislature deems to be sufficient, when combined with the local money reasonably available for this purpose, to fund the operation of the public schools in the State for kindergarten through grade 12 for the next ensuing biennium for the population reasonably estimated for that biennium.” Nev. Const. art. 11, § 6.2.
“No sectarian instruction shall be imparted or tolerated in any school or University that may be established under this Constitution. No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.” Nev. Const. art. 11, §§ 9 and 10.
Nevada is one of only a few states in which no case has been filed challenging the State school funding system.
In 2003, when the Legislature failed to garner the constitutionally required two-thirds majority to approve the State budget, including education funding, the Governor sued the Legislature, in Guinn v. Angle. The Nevada Supreme Court concluded that education is a basic constitutional right in Nevada, and “[w]hen a procedural requirement that is general in nature prevents funding for a basic, substantive right, the procedural requirement must yield.” The Court therefore found that the two-thirds majority requirement must yield to the specific substantive educational right. Within two weeks, the Legislature had funded the public school system and adopted the revenue-raising legislation required to balance the budget by the two-thirds supermajority.
In 2006, in Nevadans for Nevada v. Beers, the Court overruled its holding in Guinn that procedural constitutional requirements must yield to substantive constitutional requirements and instead concluded that the Nevada Constitution should be read as a whole, so as to give effect to and harmonize each provision.
In 2016, in Lopez v. Schwartz, the Nevada Supreme Court declared the state’s Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher program unconstitutional and permanently blocked its implementation. The Court found that the Legislature violated the constitutional prohibition against the use of public education funding for any purpose other than the operation of the public schools. The voucher program would have diverted significant amounts of funding from the public schools for private education expenditures, with no income limits on families applying for ESA vouchers.
For more information on Lopez v. Schwartz, visit these Education Law Center pages.