New challenge to school grants

A second lawsuit has been filed to overturn Nevada's new school grant law, which pays parents to take their children out of public school and put them in private schools.

One earlier suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada on behalf of several parents and a rabbi. It argues against the law on grounds that the Nevada Constitution bars the use of public school funds for sectarian purposes.

The new lawsuit takes a different tack: “The education article of the Nevada Constitution expressly prohibits the use of public school funds for anything other than the operation of Nevada's public schools.”

It also argues that by draining the public school system of funds, students remaining in public school will be made to suffer the consequences, “consign[ing] Nevada's most vulnerable and at-risk children to public school that will have even less funding—isolated by socioeconomic status, disability and academic need.”

The suit further contends that the state would be supplying public school funding to schools without requiring them to meet the standards that public schools do. “They can refuse admission based on religious beliefs, ability to pay, and academic performance.” As a result, it claims, the state would be out of compliance with the Nevada Constitution's requirement that school funding be used for “uniform schools.”

The new state law is not available to all parents who send their children to private school, only to those parents who take their children out of public schools. Most grants are in the neighborhood of $5,000, which is not enough to pay for most private school tuitions in Nevada. As a result, critics argue that it basically a supplement to affluent parents who can already afford private school (“Working poor left behind,” RN&R, Aug. 13) and thus effectively redistributes public school funding to the affluent. The new lawsuit makes a similar contention, calling the law “a windfall to those who can already afford to send their children to private school. The $5,000 voucher subsidy is not enough to cover the full tuition at all but a handful of existing private schools in Nevada. Only the families with the means to make up the significant difference will be able to use the voucher subsidy.”