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Nevada Legislature: Bill would let students use state dollars at private schools

Michelle Rindels
Associated Press

A bill introduced this week in the Nevada Legislature would allow students to apply for the portion of state funds designated for their public education and use it for private school tuition.

Republican Sen. Scott Hammond is sponsoring SB302, which was introduced Monday and would create education savings accounts. Parents could obtain a grant equal to 90 percent of their child’s per-pupil state and local funding allotment, which varies by county, and use it for tuition, textbooks, tutoring or college savings.

The program is “for parents who feel like they’re in a ZIP code where their kids have to go to a certain school and the school just isn’t providing their student what they need,” Hammond said. “This is something that will allow them to go where they need to go.”

The bill is similar to a measure endorsed by Gov. Brian Sandoval that would create Opportunity Scholarships, which would help lower-income students attend private schools. Businesses would receive a tax credit if they donated to a scholarship organization, and those funds would be awarded to students who fall below 300 percent of the poverty level.

That measure, AB165, passed the Assembly Education Committee last month on an 8-6 vote.

Sandoval mentioned the Opportunity Scholarships in his State of the State speech, but hasn’t stated a position on SB302. Hammond said the two ideas are compatible.

“The Opportunity Scholarship will really take care of needs of those who have the most need,” Hammond said. “Mine is a little different and might take care of a different segment of the population.”

Hammond acknowledged that the idea, which is law in Arizona and Florida, is likely to face opposition.

School districts and teacher groups have spoken out in the past against measures that divert state dollars to private schools.

“I’m sure it will be challenged. Everywhere it goes it is challenged,” he said.

Hammond’s bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.