Constitutional Provisions

Blaine Amendment

“No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose [sic].” Nevada Const. Art. 11, § 10.

Education Article

“The legislature shall provide for a uniform system of common schools … any school district which shall allow instruction of a sectarian character therein may be deprived of its proportion of the interest of the public school fund during such neglect or infraction .…” Nevada Const. Art. 11, § 2.

Vouchers: Yes

Tax Credits: Yes

Existing Private School Choice Programs

Nevada Educational Choice Scholarship Program

Nevada Revised Statutes Sections 388D.250, .260, .270, .280

Nevada Education Savings Accounts (ESA)

Nevada Revised Statutes Sections 387.124, .1235

Relevant Case Law

Schwartz v. Lopez, 382 P.3d 886 (Nev. 2016)

Taxpayer plaintiffs challenged Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) program under Nevada’s Blaine Amendment and the education article’s requirement that the Legislature establish a uniform system of common schools. The Nevada Supreme Court held that the program did not violate the Blaine Amendment by providing public funds for a sectarian purpose and that the education article’s common school requirement did not prohibit the state from encouraging other forms of education. The Court also found that the state had not properly
funded the ESA program.

State v. Hallock, 16 Nev. 373 (Nev. 1882)

The Nevada Supreme Court held that public money given to a Catholic orphanage violates the Blaine Amendment of the Nevada Constitution.

Attorney General Opinion 276 (11-5-1965) (copy available from the Institute for Justice)

The Nevada attorney general opined that “[t]he requirement of a federal statute that a school district which receives a grant for special aid to educationally deprived children make such aid available to pupils of private schools does not violate Nevada’s Blaine Amendment … if federal moneys are kept separate.”

Attorney General Opinion 67 (9-5-1963) (copy available from the Institute for Justice)

The Nevada attorney general opined that “[t]he prohibition of expenditures of public funds for sectarian purposes, as contained in Nevada’s Blaine Amendment, was primarily included for the purpose of preventing sectarian religious instruction in public schools, as indicated by Const., Art. 11, § 9, which prohibits sectarian instruction in any school or university established under the state Constitution.”

Attorney General Opinion 209 (9-12-1956) (copy available from the Institute for Justice)

The Nevada attorney general opined that “[h]ome instruction of a private or parochial school student by public school teachers when such student is ill is an unconstitutional expenditure of public funds for sectarian purpose. However, if such student enrolls in the public school during his illness he may then receive such home instruction.”

Attorney General Opinion B-40 (2-11-1941) (copy available from the Institute for Justice)

The Nevada attorney general opined that “[s]tate funds may be used to hospitalize crippled children in a sectarian hospital where no instruction of any kind is imparted, and such use does not violate Nevada’s Blaine Amendment.”

Analysis and Recommendations

Both voucher and tax credit programs are school choice options in Nevada. In Duncan, the Nevada Supreme Court held that providing aid to Nevada families through an ESA program did not constitute the use of state funds for a sectarian purpose and that Nevada’s education article did not limit state education spending to the public school system.

Tax benefits to generate scholarships aimed at offsetting the cost of private education are another possible school choice option. But because Nevada does not have a state income tax, any tax benefit program would have to be limited to corporate taxes.

Model Legislation: Education Savings Account, Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Universal Eligibility), Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Means-Tested Eligibility), Special Needs Scholarship Program, Foster Child Scholarship Program, Autism Scholarship, Great Schools Tax Credit Program, Family Education Tax Credit Program

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