IJ and Nevada parents recently set a landmark legal precedent when the Nevada Supreme Court upheld the state’s nearly universal Education Savings Account (ESA) program. Open to every student who has attended a public school for at least 100 days, the program deposits approximately $5,000 each year into an account that allows parents to individualize their child’s educational program. Parents may spend ESA funds on tutors, homeschool curriculum, special education therapies, private school tuition and other authorized educational goods and services.
The Nevada Supreme Court rejected the argument made by the ACLU of Nevada that the ESA program unconstitutionally funds sectarian schools, holding that “[i]t is undisputed that the ESA program has a secular purpose—that of education—and that the public funds which the State Treasurer deposits into the education savings accounts are intended to be used for educational, or non-sectarian, purposes.”
And in refusing to hold that Nevada’s Constitution precludes the Legislature from funding educational options outside of the public school system, the Court declared that “[t]o accept the narrow reading urged by the plaintiffs would mean that the public school system is the only means by which the Legislature could encourage education in Nevada. We decline to adopt such a limited interpretation.”
The case relies upon prior IJ precedent and is certain to build momentum in the many states considering market-based education reforms.
Unfortunately, while clearing the constitutional roadblocks, the Nevada Supreme Court construed the program in a manner that left it without funding. And the recent elections in Nevada saw the state Legislature lose its pro-school choice majorities. Gov. Brian Sandoval has publicly stated that “[p]rotecting this program is a top priority for me,” but the road ahead is rocky. You can trust that IJ will pull out all the stops to try to get this program restored so that parents and kids can benefit from it once again.
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