The Nevada state legislature has passed a bill that will give all public school parents control over the way state education dollars are spent on their children.
If signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is a school choice proponent, parents will be able to use the per-pupil funding earmarked for their child toward tuition or other expenses at nonpublic schools. [UPDATE: Sandoval signed the bill into law Tuesday.]
That includes religious private schools and even home schooling, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
The only stipulation is that a student must be enrolled in a public school for 100 consecutive days in order to receive the money, which the state will place in special accounts for each participating family. In other states, Education Savings Accounts, as such programs are called, are generally reserved for students with disabilities.
Nevada’s universal program is both unique and divisive—more from the Reno Gazette-Journal:
SB302, I believe, sets a new top standard for school choice in our nation," said Assemblyman James Oscarson, a Republican representing parts of rural Nevada in Nye, Lincoln and Clark counties, before the Assembly passed the bill on party lines. Opposing lawmakers called SB302 unconstitutional, dealing a crippling blow to the public school system they've worked this year to improve."
Students with special needs will get 100 percent of the state’s per-pupil funding while everyone else will get no less than 90 percent. In the case of students with disabilities, families can also spend the money on other specialized services and therapies depending upon the particular needs of the student.
Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs, are a relatively new innovation in the school choice arena, first appearing in Arizona in 2011.
Florida launched its ESA program this school year, while Mississippi and Tennessee have also passed laws creating similar programs this spring.
In related news, the Nevada legislature also passed a bill that would create an achievement school district, according to the Associated Press. That means the state will be able to take over up to six struggling local district schools and convert them into charters.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.