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Families in Las Vegas rally to save Opportunity Scholarships, prevent students from moving schools

Posted at 9:14 PM, May 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-20 07:30:25-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — On Sunday, dozens of parents, students, and educators rallied in support of the Opportunity Scholarships to ask lawmakers for funding that prevents students from losing their current scholarships.

If the Legislature do not not act soon, students could be forced back into learning environments that do not meet their learning needs. The rally took place at the Grant Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas on May 19.

The Nevada Opportunity Scholarship program currently assists more than 2,300 Nevada children to attend the private schools of their choice.

In 2017, lawmakers approved a one-year $20 million cap increase in which has allowed the program to grow a lot. However, that cap increase was only a one-time escalation.

The amount awarded was not a permanent amount and the program has already reverted to the former, lower cap .

Valeria Gurr is the program's director, she said there will not be enough money by 2022 to provide scholarships for all the students who are currently participating in the program.

"We are fighting to protect funding for the program because the current base which is about [$6.6] million is not going to cover and carry over students that are currently in the program," said Gurr.

The program is funded by business donations and is currently capped at $6.6 million and only covers about 1,350 students.

"The program could potentially be cut in half and students will have to return to a setting that wasn't really serving them. We don't want one kid to lose their scholarship." said Gurr.

Hundreds of financially struggling students could lose their scholarships if the increase to the cap is not made permanent for this program.

Senate Bill 351 proposes to make the $20 million one-time increase permanent for this program.

SB 351 also proposes to allow special needs children to qualify for the Opportunity Scholarship.

Currently, SB351 is sitting with the Finance Committee and it is unknown when and how legislators will allocate funding for this life-changing program.

For some parents, the scholarship is crucial for their child's education. Buddy Hampton told 13 Action News, his son has a learning disability that requires him to be in a small classroom size.

"What you're doing is killing the ability for each child to learn in the best way that suits them," said Hampton.

As of now, the bill has not gone up for hearing, even though hundreds of parents contacted their lawmakers.