When SB 302, commonly known as the Nevada School Voucher Program, was passed earlier this year by the Nevada legislature, it was widely praised as a step in the right direction for Nevada’s oft criticized education system. Allowing parents greater freedom of choice and students opportunities with private schools can only be positive for a state that, for a multitude of reasons, consistently ranks low on national education indicators.
In fact, nationwide, experts have commented on the good this program can do for our state, lauding it as the first of its kind and revolutionary with one article simply stating that the program is, “Sweeping. Groundbreaking. Historic.” Unfortunately, for some in Nevada, this program may be too much of a good thing. And, yes, I say that sardonically. Despite the fact that we desperately need change in our education system, there are those that, for their own political agenda, would tear down the positive steps we’ve made.
Recently, two lawsuits, and we should have expected this, have come out against SB 302, stating that the bill violates the constitution. The first lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada (ACLU), and claims that the program violates Article XI of the Nevada constitution, specifically pointing to sections 10 and 2, or the use of public funds for religious purposes and the requirement of the legislature to provide a uniform system of common schools. So, despite the fact that the bill was clearly passed with the intent of providing more choice for parents and improved education for children, the ACLU would rather tear down the entire thing because some parents may choose to send their children to faith-based schools. Should the ACLU be allowed to attack something that is clearly meant for good simply because they don’t approve of the choice that some parents might make for their children? Does that make sense? A resounding “NO” should follow both of those questions.
I appreciate our State Treasurer, Dan Schwartz who, shortly after this first lawsuit was filed, issued the following, “The ACLU (the Plaintiff) certainly has the right to air their issues in court. But, we believe that SB 302 is clearly aimed at aiding and improving our children’s education, whether it be in public or private schools, secular or non-sectarian institutions. The bill’s intent is to give parents the choice on how and where their children should be educated. Ultimately, the courts will decide whether the law is consistent with this purpose and Nevada’s constitution.” His statement makes it clear that Nevada stands behind the intent of this program, which is to improve Nevada education despite the slings and arrows coming at it.
The second lawsuit, filed in the beginning of September, takes a similar approach to tearing down this program. The new suit was filed by a group of parents in Nevada and alleges that the voucher system violates the state’s prohibition on public money being used for religious purposes. The suit was announced by Educate Nevada Now, an advocacy group founded just this year by the Rogers Foundation.
Both of these lawsuits, similar in nature, are missing the point of the School Voucher Program. It would be nice to put my head in the sand, as these plaintiffs are doing, and hope that the issues of Nevada’s public school system will work themselves out. The reality is, that’s about as likely as Trump humbly backing out of this presidential race. It must be faced that education in Nevada needs real change and the School Voucher Program is just one way in which our Nevada legislature and Governor Sandoval have worked to bring about that necessary change. Tearing it down because of petty issues doesn’t help our children, but can definitely harm them.
Call to Action: It’s time we step up to support this important program. Get vocal! Write your elected officials declaring your support for SB 302. Write the ACLU and let them know that their tyranny will not be tolerated in our Battle Born state.