The Nevada Supreme Court has agreed to expedite hearing the appeal of the injunction blocking release of school voucher money.
Carson City District Judge James Wilson issued a preliminary injunction in the case agreeing with lawyers for parents challenging the Educational Savings Accounts law if he allowed the Treasurer’s office to release the money before a decision on the constitutionality of the case, “irreparable harm will result.” Opponents of the voucher program said once that money is released, the state could never get it back if the law is deemed unconstitutional.
Both sides in the case agreed to an expedited briefing/hearing schedule. The high court agreed on Friday to cut the normal briefing time in half. Everything must be filed within 51 days.
Treasurer Dan Schwartz, whose office manages the program, said supporters of the ESA strongly disagree with the injunction. He described the ESA program as “a first step in reforming our education system by shifting decision-making responsibility for our children from school officials to parents.”
He has said in the past parents who have applied for the program are unfairly in limbo until the issue is resolved.
The vouchers law approved as Senate Bill 302 by the 2015 Legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval allowed parents to get checks for up to $5,100 a school year to help pay tuition to send their children to private schools. It has been challenged as violating two different parts of the Nevada Constitution.
The first bars using public education funding “for any purpose except that immediately connected with the public school system.” The other prohibits diverting public education money to schools operated by religious groups. Most of the private schools in the state are operated by religious groups.
A group of parents has challenged the program, arguing dipping into public school funding potentially damages the educational opportunities of their children.
Wilson issued the injunction saying the Plaintiff parents “have shown a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits (of the constitutional challenge).”
Schwartz said to accommodate families seeking to participate in the ESA program, his office is continuing to accept applications through March 31. More than 4,000 have already applied. Schwartz said applications received through the end of March will be date-stamped but not processed until the injunction is lifted.