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Nevada Supreme Court ruling keeps Education Savings Account program suspended

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that the state's voucher-style Education Savings Account program's funding mechanism is unconstitutional and the program should remain suspended. (MGN Online graphic)

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that the state's voucher-style Education Savings Account program's funding mechanism is unconstitutional and the program should remain suspended.

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.

Lawmakers passed a Republican-backed bill last year creating what was seen as the broadest school choice program in the country. It would allow parents to use public funds for private school tuition.

Groups filed two lawsuits against it shortly after. No funds were ever disbursed to families.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt issued the following statement after the Nevada Supreme Court’s ruling on the Education Savings Account program:

“Today’s rulings on Nevada’s Education Savings Account program are a landmark win for the families and children of Nevada. The Supreme Court agreed that the main constitutional hurdles to educational choice cited by opponents are without legal merit. Namely, the Court agreed with our common-sense arguments that ESAs were enacted for an educational purpose, not a religious one, and that the Legislature, in addition to its longstanding support of our public school system, can support educational opportunities outside of that system.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval also responded this afternoon:

“Although the court found the current funding mechanism for Education Savings Accounts unconstitutional, there may be a path for a legislative solution," the governor said in a news release. "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.”

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