At the end of the state’s legislative session, the Nevada Legislature approved a bill to eliminate the voucher program that has been unable to operate since the state supreme court declared it unconstitutional in 2016.
In 2015, Nevada established an expansive and controversial Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher program that would deposit taxpayer dollars into private bank accounts to pay for private school tuition and other private educational expenses. The ESA vouchers would be funded by diverting the per pupil allotment provided by the Legislature for Nevada public schools, which were already severely underfunded.
Nevada parents challenged the ESA law in court, arguing that the voucher program violated the Nevada Constitution by diverting the funding necessary to educate their children in the public schools. Education Law Center represented the parents pro bono with the firms Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP and Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin LLP and worked in partnership with Educate Nevada Now, a campaign of the Rogers Foundation to improve educational opportunities for the state’s public school children.
In September 2016, the Nevada Supreme Court declared the ESA voucher program unconstitutional—and blocked its implementation—because it violated the prohibition on use for any other purpose of funds provided by the Legislature for the operation of the public schools. Since then, efforts to revive the program have failed.
Senate Bill 551, which was approved by both chambers of the Nevada Legislature on June 3, deals with the extension of a business tax to support several initiatives, including education-related expenses. It also contains provisions that eliminate the ESA voucher program by repealing the relevant sections of Nevada statute. With Governor Steve Sisolak’s signature on June 12, SB 551 rightfully puts to bed the last vestiges of Nevada’s ill-conceived and blatantly unconstitutional ESA voucher program.
“Private school vouchers are a terrible investment for Nevada where there is such a high need for additional resources for public schools, and where private school teachers are not required to be licensed,” said Amanda Morgan, Legal Director for Educate Nevada Now. “We thank our state leadership for taking this bold action and prioritizing the use of funds where they would be better spent – public schools.”
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