Our friends who lobby for Nevada Homeschool Network share their story about ESAs and the confusion that it has brought to their state.
During the 2015 Nevada Legislative Session, the Friedman Foundation assisted State Senator Scott Hammond in the writing of SB 302. Senator Hammond had requested a Bill Draft Resolution (BDR) for a government funded alternative education option for parents of public school students. An Education Savings Account (ESA) program is different from a “voucher system” they say, since money from the state general fund is not going directly from the state to a religious private school (Blaine Amendments in many state constitutions prohibit the use of public funding for sectarian purposes). Rather, the money (between $5,100 to $5,700 in NV) goes from the state’s general fund into an account in the name of the child, whose parents then choose where to spend the money so that the child receives an education as compelled by state compulsory attendance laws. This supporters say, means that the parent, not the state, is choosing the education modality for the child and the parent is therefore free to choose a private religious school or use religious materials in the education of their child. This new program passed the 2015 NV Legislature along strict party lines (all Republicans in support, all Democrats opposing). What makes Nevada’s ESA unique is that it is “universal”, meaning it is not “means” or “needs” tested and is available to all NV public school students. Two lawsuits were filed in NV District Court in late 2015 against the new ESA program with a decision in at least one of the cases due out in April from the Nevada Supreme Court (Governor Brian Sandoval requested an expedited decision).
Nevada parents, who choose to use the ESA program, will NOT be “homeschooling” under NV statute. NRS 392.070 and 392.700 allow NV parents, who receive NO MONEY from the state, to educate their children free from government control, although educational abuse and neglect statutes do apply as safeguards. While imitation is the best form of flattery, Nevada Homeschool Network (NHN) became alarmed when Senator Hammond introduced an amended version of his original ESA bill that no one had been able to read prior to the hearing in the NV Senate Education Committee. NHN opposed the bill as introduced due to the Senator’s constant reference to homeschooling in his verbal introduction of the bill. The Senator’s amended version attempted to use the NV homeschool law as the vehicle for this new program. However, Senator Hammond agreed to work with NHN to address homeschooler’s concerns. As a result, NHN offered an amendment to SB 302 that protected the NV homeschool statute and created a new statute to establish the ESA program.
Read more here.