Concerns Arise Over How Education Savings Accounts Will Work

Jul 20, 2015

The Nevada treasurer's office heard hours of public comment Friday on a new law that allows families to spend public education dollars on private school tuition. 

In the last legislative session, lawmakers approved SB302 which creates a program for education savings accounts. Those accounts will offer families a credit each year that can go toward the cost of a school of their choice.  But there's a catch. In order to qualify for the money, students must first be enrolled in public school for 100 days. 

Senator Scott Hammond, who sponsored the bill, says his original draft included funding for all Nevada children, but budgetary constraints led to the inclusion of this so-called "100-day rule."

"Those in the private schools are not counted in the budget right now," Hammond. "They're not on the rolls. You guys have taken your children out of the system, and so they weren't counted on the rolls, and so adding them into the bill created a $200 million-plus hole in the budget. There were not a lot of people that were excited to try to fill that in right now."

Hammond spoke at Friday's workshop where a lot of questions came up. Right now, it's not clear if those 100 days can be retroactively applied, and it's also not clear if students are required to physically attend a public school or simply enroll in an online course.

Leslie Hiner, with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, said that parents of children who are already in private school could have a tough decision to make. 

"The idea of then moving your child out of a private school where that child is succeeding and back into a public school for 100 days to be able to access this funding doesn't look very good to you," she said, "and the question of that fairness jumps to the forefront."

The state treasurer's office is still taking public comments in order to draft a plan by early next year, which many say is not soon enough.