Las Vegas Sun

April 21, 2015

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One move to fund education meeting opposition from school boards, teachers’ union

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s plan to give tax subsidies to help low-income students attend private schools ran into opposition Monday from school boards and a teachers’ union.

Sandoval wants to permit companies to donate money to a scholarship system and then take a deduction on their business tax. The money would be used to help pay private-school tuition for students from low-performing public schools.

Gerald Gardner, chief of staff for Sandoval, told the Senate Finance Committee on Monday that this was one of the governor’s highest priorities in education, and he added that this is “not an abandonment” of the public school system.

The amount of donations to the fund would be capped at $5 million. The money could not be used for recruitment of student-athletes.

Dotty Merrill of the Nevada Association of School Boards said this would reduce tax money that could go toward education. She said the bill, Senate Bill 445, does not include any accountability for how the student performs at the private school.

Craig Stevens of the Nevada State Education Association said this would leave a hole in the general fund budget. It would take money away that could go to education.

The scholarship money would be available on a “first-come, first-served” basis to students in low-performing schools.

Objections to the bill were raised by parents who homeschool their children. The bill would permit grants to parents or legal guardians who provide an accredited program of homeschooling.

Janine Hansen said she loves the idea of school choice, but this would put the homeschools under the jurisdictions of local school boards.

“We want homeschools removed from the bill,” she said.

The Nevada Homeschool Network offered an amendment to keep the accredited homeschool programs outside the authority of the local school boards.

Committee members questioned how much the general fund would lose from these tax subsidies.

Jeff Mohlenkamp, director of the state Administration Department, said he couldn’t determine now the financial impact or the number of families that would take advantage of the program.

But he said a student who left the public school for a private school would mean less money going to the state’s distributive school fund.

The committee did not take action on the bill.

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  1. This is a voucher program. This will siphon funds from the already starving public schools. There is a very good reason why the Republicans snuck this through the legislative system via the Revenue Committee instead of allowing the Education Committee to work on this. These programs segregate our students by race, religion,or interest -- on the tax payer dime. If parents demand choice - they should not be allowed to take tax payer money with them. Parents wanting a private school education should pay from their own pocket -- rather than demanding we all pay for their personal choice by voucher.

  2. Don't be fooled by all the legaleeze language, this is really a type of voucher. The following says it all:

    "But he said a student who left the public school for a private school would mean less money going to the state's distributive school fund."

    Any system, as the voucher system, should be put up to Citizen vote. Get this OUT of the hands of the Governor, lobbyists, and persuadable Lawmakers. Let the People who are most affected by this decide.

    Blessings and Peace,

  3. Parents have choices. Don't make my taxes pay for your elitist choice.

    They want their child better educated? By golly, why don't they help the teachers and the school.

    These parents who want the vouchers simply want reimbursements for their private school bills!

    You choose? You pay!

    As usual, politicians claim they want to help parents. Actually, they only want to help their kind.