UPDATE: The Interim Finance Committee rejected Governor Lombardo’s proposal to use more than $3 million in federal COVID relief funds for opportunity scholarships Wednesday night.
The Nevada Assembly Democratic Caucus said that “Lombardo’s staff could not explain why $18 million in available reserve funding in the Opportunity Scholarship private school voucher program was not being used to cover an alleged $3 million shortfall in the program.”
“During today’s Interim Finance Committee meeting, it was clear that the Opportunity Scholarship program is severely broken. On Governor Lombardo’s watch, one out-of-state organization sucked up all available tax credits for this fiscal year and is hoarding millions of dollars in scholarship money instead of spending it on students who need it,” Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, chair of the Interim Finance Committee said. “This ill-advised attempt by the Governor to supplement a voucher program that already has plenty of money has demonstrated a complete lack of accountability and transparency in the program. His administration has allowed one organization to hoard all the tax credits, ultimately manufacturing this crisis.”
Lombardo’s office released a statement Wednesday night saying:
Today, the Interim Finance Committee (IFC) voted against Governor Joe Lombardo’s proposal to utilize unallocated federal COVID relief funds to maintain Opportunity Scholarship funding for the 2023 school year.
The proposal was denied on a partisan vote with all Democrats in opposition. With the denial of the proposal, several hundred Nevada school children will now be kicked off of their Opportunity Scholarships and removed from their schools.
At the beginning of the 2023 Legislative Session, Governor Lombardo proposed increasing Opportunity Scholarship funding to $50 million through Assembly Bill 400, which Democrats gutted to remove the scholarship funding increase. The Office of the Governor then continued to fight for funding until the final days of the session.
IFC’s incredible hostility towards a scholarship program that supports low-income children was on full display as Democratic legislators attacked representatives of organizations that provide scholarships to these children. The legislature has directed millions upon millions of dollars to their political supporters and pet projects, yet now refuses to fund the urgent needs of low-income students in Nevada through vetted and accountable scholarship organizations.
“In an act of callous partisanship, today Democrats turned their backs on hundreds of low-income students that our traditional school system has failed or left behind,” Governor Joe Lombardo said. “Forcibly removing hundreds of low-income students from their schools after the school year has already begun is devastating and simply incomprehensible. My administration grieves with the hundreds of students who will be crushed by Democrats removing them from their friends, teachers, and schools, and my administration remains more committed than ever to fighting for all Nevada students. Our fight continues.”
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada lawmakers heard over two hours of public comment on Wednesday regarding the lack of funding for a school choice program aimed at helping low-income kids attend private schools.
Republican Governor Joe Lombardo is asking for more than $3 million in federal Covid relief funds for opportunity scholarships.
The Interim Finance Committee began its meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday to consider the governor’s request and it’s currently still in session.
“We’ve been fighting the fight since day one, and we will continue to fight the fight, as we move forward,” Gov. Lombardo said at a school choice rally on Friday, Aug. 4.
Lombardo and the state’s Democratic leadership have been trading barbs over the funding for opportunity scholarships for the last two weeks.
“There was never, ever, ever, ever a discussion that if we did not do something with the funding, rather than the $6.65 million that’s in law. That students would potentially lose the opportunity to stay at their schools,” Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager, D-Clark County, said on Wednesday, Aug. 2.
The back-and-forth came to a head at Wednesday’s meeting as dozens of people lined up to give their opposition or support for opportunity scholarships.
“Let’s keep this money right where it belongs and do the right thing for our students. Let’s not do something foolish and throw away this money to fulfill a campaign promise,” Tom Wellman, who spoke in opposition, said.
“If you really want to help low-income families? Then you will fund the opportunity scholarships to give more,” Madeline Childers, who spoke in support of the funding request, said.
The Opportunity Scholarship program started back in 2015, and eligible low-income students could receive up to $8,7000 towards tuition.
Lombardo stated last week 700 kids could be impacted if funds aren’t added.
“Wealthier families can flee a failing public school and choose a better environment for their children through charter or private school options, less fortunate families are relegated to whatever school is assigned to them,” a supporter Debra Earl said.
Sue Burch, who spoke in opposition, said, “Everything we’ve heard today, all the statements just reinforce the need to give more funds to our public schools.”
Democrats have previously criticized the governor for not addressing this during the legislative session, a comment the governor has said wasn’t accurate.