The country’s most ambitious school choice program has been put on hold and potentially stopped permanently after a Nevada judge ordered the state to halt its implementation, just weeks before it was set to begin.
In 2015, Brian Sandoval signed the ambitious law that allows any parent with a child who spent at least 100 days in public school claim $5,000 in state funds per year to create an education savings account (ESA). These ESAs can be spent to opt-out of public schools and instead pay for private schooling, tutoring, or other educational options for their child.
A group of parents challenged the program, who claiming it is unconstitutional and illegally diverts funding away from the state’s public schools. They also argue the program disproportionately benefits wealthier families, since the $5,000 isn’t enough to pay the entire tuition cost of most private schools.
Carson City District Judge James Wilson granted an injunction Monday against the law until its legality is determined. His decision means the more than 4,000 children who were set to receive ESA funds in February, will be left empty-handed.
If allowed to take effect, Nevada’s program would easily be the most far-reaching school choice program in the country. Similar programs have been enacted in other states, including Florida and Arizona, but the funds have only been available for families with special-needs children or children who attend failing schools.
School choice fans, needless to say, were upset about Wilson’s ruling.
“Every child deserves access to the education that will empower them to succeed,” Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “And parents should be able to choose the best education option for their children. Today’s action will cause irreparable harm, disruption and uncertainty for Nevada families and the 4,100 children who were counting on these accounts for their education.”
The current lawsuit isn’t the only one the ESA program is facing. Another one filed by the ACLU claims the program violates the state’s Blaine Amendment, which prohibits state funds from going to religious schools. Supporters of the ESA program say it does not violate the Blaine Amendment because money isn’t going directly to religious schools, but is instead going to families who are allowed to spend it on anything education-related.