Private school voucher group loses second legal challenge

Private school voucher group loses second legal challenge
A school classroom. Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

by April Corbin Girnus, Nevada Current

CARSON CITY — Education Freedom for Nevada, a political action committee attempting to establish a private school voucher system, was dealt another legal blow Monday, as a district court judge ruled their proposed statutory initiative petition cannot move forward.

Judge Charles McGee found that Education Freedom’s statutory initiative contained “an insufficient explanation of the affect of the initiative on the budgets of all the school districts in the state and/or the need to draw revenues from the General Fund.” The judge also ruled the statutory initiative constituted an unfunded mandate because it failed to identify for its proposed voucher system a funding source or tax — something required by the Nevada Constitution.

This means the PAC can no longer collect signatures in support of the proposed statutory initiative, and any previously collected signatures are now invalid.

The court decision comes roughly two weeks after Judge McGee similarly struck down a constitutional amendment proposed by Education Freedom.

The constitutional amendment would have required state lawmakers to create and maintain an education voucher program starting in the 2025-26 academic year. The proposed statutory initiative detailed a specific type of educational voucher program, which the group called “education freedom accounts.”

Together, the proposals would have established a voucher program wherein parents could opt to receive an amount of money equivalent to the guaranteed per-pupil funding received by a public school for enrollment. Parents could then use that money for private school tuition.

Nevada Republicans in 2015 passed a similar voucher program but it was never implemented because the court ruled its funding mechanism unconstitutional.

Educate Nevada Now spearheaded the legal challenges against Education Freedom for Nevada. The group was also behind the lawsuit that effectively killed the 2015 voucher program.

“We are glad the judge was able to see these efforts for what they are, deceptive and a huge cost to the state without acknowledgement of the impact on schools and state budgets in 2015,” said Beverly Rogers, whose Rogers Foundation launched Educate Nevada Now, in a statement. “We can’t go on pretending private school vouchers are not harmful and detrimental to public schools, their students and the community.”

Erin Phillips of Educate Freedom for Nevada called Monday’s decision “an anticipated outcome” and said the group will appeal both rulings.

“These (types of cases) are decided in the Supreme Court,” she said. “We will appeal and are hoping to find a judge who has heard election law cases before. I don’t think (Judge McGee) understood what his job was in his ruling.”

She added, “We will continue to fight for education freedom for families.”

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