School Choice & Charters

Nevada School Vouchers: Gov. Sandoval Says He’ll Help Revive the ESA Program

By Arianna Prothero — November 15, 2016 1 min read
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There may be some life left in the movement to bring education savings accounts to Nevada after the state’s supreme court ruled the school voucher-like program unconstitutional. Gov. Brian Sandoval says he’ll help lawmakers get a new program up and running, according to the Nevada Appeal.

Education savings accounts, or ESAs, allow parents to pull their children out of public schools and use most of the state’s per-pupil funding for their children on other forms of schooling, such as private school tuition or home-schooling materials.

But the Nevada high court ruled in October that the way the ESA program was funded was unconstitutional. (There’s more to the ruling, which dealt with two separate lawsuits, and you can read the details on that here.)

ESA supporters have claimed that the ruling is not an outright ban, and still leaves them a pathway to revive the program by changing the funding source through legislation.

Gov. Sandoval says he will include funding for the ESA program in his next budget, reports the Nevada Appeal:

He said under the Nevada Supreme Court's ruling, the so-called Educational Savings Accounts program will have to have a separate line item in the budget. "He said he is working with Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, who authored the ESA bill that was struck down by the high court to develop a plan that may be acceptable to a majority of the now Democrat controlled Legislature."

Thousands of students have applied to the program so far. Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who has been in charge of implementing the program, told me previously that he will continue to accept new applicants for the program.

What Makes Nevada’s Voucher Program Unique: It’s Universal

Only a handful of states have education savings accounts, which are labeled that way because the money is deposited in accounts that parents draw from to pay for approved education-related expenses.

Of the states that do have an ESA—Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee—their programs are limited to a small number of students, such as those with disabilities or from low-income families.

Nevada’s program is open to all public school students, so long as they have been enrolled in a public school for at least 100 days. It’s because of its scope that the Nevada program draws so much national attention.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.