Future of Education Savings Account now in hands of NV Supreme Court

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - LATEST: The fate of Nevada's Education Savings Account program is now in the hands of the state's top court.

Supreme Court Justices heard two constitutional challenges to the program during separate hearings Friday.

In the first case, opponents argue the law that allows parents a five thousand dollar voucher for private education is unconstitutional, 
 
The say the money for the program comes from the same account set aside for public k-12 education.
 
"We don't have enough resources to take money away from our public schools to subsidize that choice, and we need to make sure we are funding our schools,” Attorney Tamerlin Godley said.
 
The state argues public schools are fully funded and that a simple clerical change could easily fix the issues being raised in the lawsuit.
 
"We've said from the beginning that the legislature passed this an educational purpose in mind. As long as that is all they cared about this is constitutional," Attorney General Adam Laxalt said.
 
In the second case, the ACLU argues the state would be directly supporting religious educational institutions since the money would be transferred driectly from the state to the schools.
 
 
"The state legislature went out of its way to make sure that money could go to pay for tuition at religious schools," Richard Katskee Legal Director for Americans United said.
 
Those in favor of the ESA program say when it comes down to it the state has no say in the school choice.
 
"There are two hallmarks to any constitutional school choice program.  Number one, parents are the ones that decide where and how to use the funds, and number two the state is completely nuetral with regards to religion," Tim Keller with managing attorney for the Institute of Jestice said. 
 
There is no timeline for a decision in either case, but those involved it will be a matter of weeks not months.
 

UPDATE: The crowds for and against Education Savings Accounts have started to gather in downtown Las Vegas. Follow reporter Parker Collins on Twitter at @ParkerCollinsTV for the very latest outside the courthouse.

ORIGINAL STORY

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) -- The Nevada Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Friday for and against the controversial Education Savings Account.

Before that, hundreds of advocates on both sides of the issue are expected to rally at the Clark County Justice Court.

After that, the Supreme Court will hear two cases that will determine whether the progressive program can become a reality. To date, roughly 7,800 parents have applied for an ESA.

Gov. Brian Sandoval approved the school-choice program last year and assigned it into law. However, the program has been on hold since January, following an injunction by a district court judge. That decision was appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Those against the program says that it allows families to use state education funds for things like private school. The program would give parents approximately $5,000 to be spent on their child's education.

Those who are in favor of the program says that it gives families more options to meet the educational needs of their children.

In addition, Nevada's program is different than the ones in other states because it is open to anyone regardless of income.

The Supreme Court will actually hear arguments in two cases. The first lawsuit was filed by a group of parents who believe that the program diverts money meant for public schools to private schools. They also claim that it violates a constitutional requirement that lawmakers have to create a "uniform" system of public schools.

The second lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. That lawsuit argues that the program violates a constitutional prohibition against using taxpayer funds for religious purposes.

A very large crowd is expected this morning and the Supreme Court has provided overflow seating to accommodate those who are interested in the case.

13 Action News will be streaming the hearing. It is expected to begin at 10 a.m. Click here for our live stream.
 

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