The importance of Nevada’s Supreme Court Ruling
By Kimberly Sawatka
Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court heard arguments from two cases challenging the newly enacted education savings account (ESA) program. This is a landmark case for the state, but also the nation and future of educational choice options. Here’s what you need to know:
How does this ESA program work?
In 2015 the state legislature adopted one of the most robust ESA programs the country has seen to date. The bill allowed all children to participate in the program, making this program near universal. To qualify, students have to be enrolled in the public school system for 100 consecutive days; however, that rule does not apply to those students beginning Kindergarten.
Parents can use the ESA program and credit toward private school tuition, home schooling, tutoring, or other educational therapies and options.
What is the court case about?
The first suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union claims the program infringes on the state’s constitution, by potentially sending state money to religious private schools.
The second suit was brought by a group of seven parents, arguing the program is pulling money away from the already dismal public schools. However, by law the state guarantees a specific dollar amount to the public schools, so no money will actually be taken from the public school budget.
Why is this important?
The state currently ranks last in the country in education scores, causing state leaders to take bold measures to improve the state of education quickly. The program has great support from parents and community leaders, with over 7,000 applications already completed. In an effort to keep the program from being denied a chance to even begin, several hundred parents gathered on the doorstep of the Supreme Court to rally support for the program.
The case is being watched by education reformers all over the country. It will serve as a benchmark for future cases, since many states are already looking to adopt similar programs and have state constitutions that closely mirror Nevada’s Constitution. The Supreme Court will set a precedence with its ruling and determine the fate of education for thousands of children.