Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2017

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Continued work on Nevada’s school choice program draws a legal threat

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Steve Marcus

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt speaks on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks during a rally at the Durango Hills Community Center Monday Feb. 22, 2016.

Lawyers on the side of parents who successfully sued to block the Nevada's education savings account law are promising further legal action if state officials continue to accept applications for the program.

In a letter sent to Attorney General Adam Laxalt on Monday, the plaintiff’s pro-bono lawyer Bradley Schrager accused Treasurer Dan Schwartz of ignoring a court injunction halting all work on the program.

The voucher-like program that attracted applications from more than 8,000 families has been in a state of limbo ever since the state Supreme Court struck it down in September.

But Schwartz, under guidance from Laxalt’s office, has pushed forward with accepting applications and setting up the program’s online portal under the assumption legislators will revive the program next year.

“The Treasurer’s Office is deliberately misleading Nevadans by acting as though the SB 302 program remains in effect,” Schrager wrote.

Schrager went on to demand that Schwartz stop administering the program, threatening further legal action if Laxalt did not agree to comply by Dec. 9.

As of Monday evening, Laxalt's office said they had received the letter and were reviewing it. A spokesman for the treasurer said they would hold off on comment until further direction from the attorney general.

Educate Nevada Now, a local anti-ESA group supported by the Rogers Foundation and that assisted in the lawsuit, signed on to the demands.

“It’s time for Treasurer Schwartz to face the fact that ESA vouchers were declared unconstitutional because they would have drained tens of millions of dollars from Nevada’s public schools, with Clark County schools losing over $30 million in the first year alone,” said Sylvia Lazos, UNLV law school professor and policy director for the organization.

The ESA program would allow any family regardless of income to receive upwards of $5,000 per student to use on things like private school tuition or tutoring.

The program’s supporters, which include Schwartz, Laxalt and Gov. Brian Sandoval, have vowed the ESA will be resurrected in next year’s legislative session once lawmakers figure out a different funding source.

The Supreme Court struck down the program on account of its funding system, which used money earmarked for public schools.

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