Nevada’s School Choice program will once again be under the microscope as supporters and opponents gear up for hearings before the state supreme court at the end of the month.
The school choice program also known as Nevada’s Education Savings Account program has been on shaky ground since lawmakers passed it last year.
Ever since the program opened in February, thousands of parents have signed up for ESA. A northern Nevada lawsuit put the program on hold. In fact, two lawsuits were filed to put a stop to ESA. One of the lawsuits was upheld, while the other was dismissed.
Both sides of the ESA issue want answers before school starts.
“Public school in its traditional sense is just not working for my son,” said Shannon Churchwell, an ESA supporter.
Churchwell says ESA, is the only way she can afford to put her son in a private school.
“Unfortunately, because we’re a lower income family, we’re trapped, Churchwell said. “I really feel like we’re held hostage by this dysfunctional system.”
The ESA program essentially allows parents to receive roughly $5,000 that would be spent on their child in a public school to apply it toward tutoring or private school tuition.
Lawsuits are challenging the program on two fronts.
“We can’t afford any money diverting from the school system,” said Adriana Martinez, an Educate Nevada Now Consultant.
Martinez says the program would divert about 30-million dollars in funding out of public education.
“These are tax dollars going into private education taking away from our public schools,” Martinez said.
The other issue surrounding ESA us whether or not public funds will go toward secular purposes.
“This is unconstitutional, said Tod Story of the ACLU of Nevada. “This transfer of cash from the taxpayer to private, religious use.”
Michael Schaus of the Nevada Policy Research Institute says in both cases, parents get the money first, which means the money doesn’t go directly to private schools.
“The state is not giving any money directly to schools, Schaus said. “The state has no control over what schools a parent may or may not choose.”
So who’s right? We’ll have to wait and see. The decision will come later from the Nevada Supreme Court.