Sandoval working on way to implement ESA program

Gov. Brian Sandoval said on Monday he still plans to keep his promise to include the school vouchers program in his upcoming budget.

He said under the Nevada Supreme Court’s ruling, the so-called Educational Savings Accounts program will have to have a separate line item in the budget.

He said he is working with Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, who authored the ESA bill that was struck down by the high court to develop a plan that may be acceptable to a majority of the now Democrat controlled Legislature.

The new plan, he said, does include an income component and he said he is willing to work with Democrats to win enough support to revive the program.

The program was passed in the final days of the 2015 Legislature and promised to let parents who wanted to put their children into private schools take the state share of per pupil funding with them — about $5,100 apiece per school year — and use it to pay tuition.

It was immediately challenged in two separate lawsuits, one arguing that the state constitution prohibits using public funds to support religious activities. Many of those private schools are operated by religious groups. The other challenge was the one that blocked the program when the Supreme Court ruled the state constitution bars using money appropriated for K-12 public education to fund the savings accounts.

Sandoval promised to find a way to fund the program and put it in his budget. Several thousand parents across the state have applied to get the money but, until and unless lawmakers and the governor find the votes to bring it back, can’t get the state money.


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