NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Unions and the ACLU Fight Universal Statewide School Choice in Nevada

September 11, 2015

Across the United States school choice has been on the forefront of education debate topics.  This summer, Nevada established universal education savings accounts (ESAs). These accounts grant the statewide average per-pupil allotment to parents who choose to not enroll their students in public school, using the allotment instead for private school tuition, textbooks, tutoring fees and special services.

  • Nevada's per-pupil allotment ranges from $5,100 to $5,700 per year, which is estimated to cover between 60 and 80 percent of the average private school tuition.
  • 23 states have private-school choice programs.
  • Four states -- Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi -- have ESAs granting funds to special needs or low-income students.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against Nevada's ESA program, declaring the program a violation of the state's constitution. The ACLU argued that by allowing public funds to be used for "sectarian purposes" the ESAs were constitutional violations and would hurt "the public school system that the State is constitutionally required to support." However, according to the 2011 Supreme Court ruling in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, tax credits are not considered government expenditures even if the funds go to support private schools scholarships. By allowing parents and families, the specified beneficiaries of ESAs, to choose where the education allotment is spent, the Institute for Justice argued any link between church and state was severed.

Source:  "Nevada's Voucher Breakout: Unions and the ACLU Fight Universal Statewide School Choice," Wall Street Journal, September 1, 2015.


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