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Politics and Policy
0000017c-5ad9-ded9-afff-7bdfe3150003 With the passage of Senate Bill 302, Nevada lawmakers approved what's being called the most comprehensive school choice program in the country. Basically, families can apply to have the state subsidize their child's private or homeschool education through what's called an education savings account or ESA.Each child will receive roughly $5,000, but not every Nevada child is currently eligible under the law's so-called 100-day rule, requiring that applicants attend a public school for at least 100 days. That rule is causing the most controversy, but critics are also questioning the program's accessibility and constitutionality, along with its potential effectiveness for repairing K-12 education in Nevada.Reno Public Radio is exploring all of these issues for our series Nevada's Gamble On School Choice.Below is a map of the various private school options available in Washoe County. Click on a pin to see details like the school's name, religious affiliation, tuition, and how far the ESA payout would go toward covering it. 0000017c-5ad9-ded9-afff-7bdfe3160000

Does Nevada's Education Savings Account Program Violate The State Constitution?

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All week KUNR has been looking into the challenges of implementing the new Education Savings Account program for our series Nevada’s Gamble on School Choice. Some have questioned whether the program is unconstitutional because the funds can be used at private religious schools. The State Constitution says, “No public money of any kind…shall be used for sectarian purposes.” But some, including Kristopher Dahir the director of Excel Christian Academy in Sparks, say once parents are given an account, the money in it belongs to them similar to a tax refund.

“It’s your money. No one can come and tell you that you couldn’t donate that. You can spend it however you want. And that’s what they’ve done with this account. A parent doesn’t necessarily get this money, but it sits in an account where the treasurer will put it wherever the parent says because it’s their money, no different from a tax refund.”

To explore this argument further, Reno Public Radio’s Esther Ciammachilli spoke to Erik Herzik chair of the political science department at UNR and professor of the Nevada Constitution.

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada reports that it and two other organizations have filed a law suit last week on behalf of several parents, clergy and tax payers on the grounds that the ESA violates the Nevada Constitution. Stay tuned to KUNR for continued coverage on this story. And you can hear all the stories from our series Nevada’s Gamble on School Choice at kunr.org 

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