This summer, Nevada lawmakers took bold action and created an Education Savings Account (ESA) program to give all parents a say in where their children go to school. And last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of that program. So much for defending liberties.
As ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque commented last week, “It is ironic that the ACLU pledges itself to ‘defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person. Yet…the ACLU opposes giving every parent in Nevada the right to decide where his or her child goes to school.”
The ACLU lawsuit is based on the faulty premise that Nevada will be directly funding religious schools through the ESA program. In fact, Nevada will be funding parents to customize an education plan for their children.
A recent piece by Glenn Cook, the senior editorial writer at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, explores that fatal weakness of the ACLU lawsuit:
ESAs nothing like vouchers
By: Glenn Cook
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Calling Nevada’s new Education Savings Accounts vouchers doesn’t make them vouchers.
This is the fatal weakness of a lawsuit filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada in Clark County District Court. The action, which seeks to kill the country’s strongest school choice law before it ever has a chance to work, completely misrepresents ESAs, which are fundamentally different from school vouchers.
Nevada’s ESAs, passed this year by the Nevada Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval, allow parents to remove their children from public schools and control the state funding that supported their enrollment: up to $5,700 per year, per child. Thousands of Nevada families have applied for the accounts, which will receive their first distribution next year. Although the money can be used for a wide range of educational expenses, from distance learning to tutoring to technology, there’s no doubt that a lot of families will use the money to enroll their children in parochial schools.
This is the basis of the ACLU lawsuit, which correctly argues that the Nevada Constitution prohibits the use of public funds on sectarian education. And a school voucher program would indeed be unconstitutional in Nevada if parochial schools were allowed to accept them, because vouchers amount to direct payments from the government to a private school.
But the ACLU lawsuit incorrectly uses the word “voucher” or the label “Voucher Program” dozens of times in seeking to have Nevada’s ESAs erased from existence. ESAs are not vouchers. ESAs are controlled by parents, not the state. Once state money is transferred into the accounts, it’s no longer the public’s money, and as such it’s perfectly constitutional for parents to choose to spend the money at a religious school…
Continue reading this piece at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.