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Republicans clash over school choice lawsuit

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Posted at 12:25 PM, Jan 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-08 15:25:00-05

Several top Nevada constitutional officers are bitterly clashing over a lawsuit filed over the state's hotly-debated new program giving public school money to private school parents.

Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt filed a motion Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit brought by fellow Republican Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison, acting as a private lawyer, in December for a group of families seeking public school funds to send their children to private school.

In a statement, Laxalt said that Hutchison's lawsuit would "distract and divide" the state's legal efforts in defending the program from other lawsuits, including one filed by the ACLU.

"Notwithstanding Hutchison’s attempt to turn this into a political show, my Office will continue to treat this lawsuit just as it has treated every threat to Nevada’s ESA program," Laxalt said in a statement.

In a response, Hutchison said his law firm was working pro bono to assist families concerned that other litigation would prevent the program from functioning come February. The Lieutenant Governor also said he planned on responding to the motion personally before a judge, and invited Laxalt to do the same.

"It is troubling and disappointing that he is now trying to delay the lawsuit intended to determine if families who applied for ESA can count on state funding," Hutchison said in a statement.

Nevada state treasurer Dan Schwartz, who administers the education savings program through his office, said he agreed with Laxalt and accused Hutchison of hijacking the issue for political gain.

"Mr. Hutchison is using this political stunt as a lever to raise thousands of dollars for his next political campaign," he said in a statement.

The fight comes over the state's legal defense of the newly-created Education Savings Account program, which is considered one of the nation's most sweeping school choice law.

The newly created program allows parents to create accounts run by the state treasurer's office and receive around $5,000 to pay off the cost of educational expenses, from transportation to partially paying for private school tuition.

Around 4,100 parents have signed up to join the program, which is scheduled to begin in February.