Nevada Supreme Court ruling brings ESA program to a standstill |
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The Nevada Supreme Court has put a halt to the controversial ESA program. However, both sides of the argument claimed victory Thursday.
The court found Nevada's Education Savings Account program doesn't violate the state constitution however the funding under the bill that created the program is in question.
Justices issued a 4-2 ruling on Thursday calling for a permanent injunction on the program, which was on hold on a temporary basis.
The ruling says the program authorized last spring by the Nevada Legislature did not have its own dedicated funding source and is unlawfully drawing on money allocated for public schools in the state's Distributive School Account. It would have allowed parents to use public school dollars to pay for private school tuition.
"The court ruled against the state on a small funding issue that was not even debated or contentious when this bill was passed. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has made crystal clear that ESAs are constitutional and that the Legislature can fix this funding technicality and allow for the implementation of ESAs statewide," said Attorney General Adam Laxalt.
Schools receive about $5,000 per student from the ESA account.
Opponents argue that with some eight-thousand families wanting to take that money and apply it toward private tuition it would be a $40 million hit to public schools.
"This ESA program, it's not going to work, it's not good for Nevada, said Amanda Morgan, legal director of Educate Nevada Now. "It's unconstitutional, so let's start looking forward and improving public education."
Proponents of ESA, including State Treasurer Dan Schwartz who would administer the program, say it's critical to get the funding worked out by lawmakers in Carson City so that the program can restart.
Schwartz says he wants lawmakers to tackle this during the upcoming NFL stadium special session.
"We're going to go to the governor's office and ask him to add this to the agenda, and if you want to know where the money can come from, it can come from Sheldon Adelson's stadium," Schwartz said.
Governor Brian Sandoval sets the agenda for special sessions. It will be up to him whether or not ESA funding is also tackled during the special session.
However, according to a statement released by Governor Sandoval, it seems as if he's planning to close the door on tackling this in a special session:
"Although the court found the current funding mechanism for Education Savings Accounts unconstitutional, there may be a path for a legislative solution. However, such a solution is complex and must be well thought-out to meet constitutional muster. I am still reviewing the full decision of the Nevada Supreme Court and it would be premature to speculate on the proper method to administer and fund this important program. I also believe it is important to consult with legislative leadership on this issue as we approach the 2017 legislative session."
Sources told 8 News NOW the special session is expected to get underway Oct. 10.