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Parents Move to Protect Nevada's Public Schools

Las Vegas, Nev. - Six parents who are suing the State of Nevada over the new voucher law Senate Bill 302 (SB302) filed a preliminary injunction motion to prevent the loss of millions in funding to their children’s public schools. The motion was filed in Lopez v. Schwartz – the lawsuit filed by the parents in September claiming the voucher law violates the Nevada Constitution’s ban on using public school funding to pay for private education.

The parents motion for a preliminary injunction was filed yesterday, October 20, 2015, with Judge James Wilson in the First Judicial Court in Carson City.

The parents seek to block the voucher law which violates the Nevada Constitution in three ways:

  • By diverting public school funding to pay for private school vouchers;
  • By reducing public school funding below the amount necessary for their operation;
  • By exempting voucher schools from public school accountability, performance and anti-discrimination requirements.

"The motion filed today asks the court to stop the voucher law before it is implemented. This step will prevent vouchers from draining resources from our public schools and harming children whose parents choose public education, said Sylvia Lazos, Policy Director for Educate Nevada Now. “We're confident the courts will conclude the voucher law violates the constitutional ban on using public school funding for any other purpose."

Educate Nevada Now (ENN), a campaign of The Rogers Foundation, assembled a team of experienced Nevada and national attorneys to ensure that Nevada law protects and advances education opportunities for all children. The Rogers Foundation supports the parents’ lawsuit because it addresses using public funding for private schools, an issue of vital importance to all Nevada public school children and taxpayers – and one that must be resolved by the Nevada courts.

The parents’ motion for an injunction makes clear that the education of their children – and the 450,000 children attending public schools across the State – will be irreparably harmed if the voucher law is not blocked. According to estimates by the State Treasurer, the public schools could lose over $200 million or more to pay for the voucher program.

In statements to the court, officials from the White Pine, Elko and Clark County school districts explain that the loss of funding will cause constant changes to their budgets and force them to reduce or eliminate teachers and support staff, increase class sizes, put off building repairs, and cut additional services for students with disabilities, English language learners (ELLs) and other special needs students.

In June, the Nevada Legislature passed SB302 authorizing an unlimited program of private school vouchers. The voucher law directs the State Treasurer to deposit funds appropriated by the Legislature for the operation of the Nevada public schools into private accounts to pay for private school tuition, home-based curriculums, tutoring, transportation and other private expenses. The voucher program is expected to drain millions from the public schools and trigger cuts to programs and services necessary to educate public school children across the State.

“The Nevada Constitution puts a high priority on public education for Nevada's children. The voucher law violates the Constitution’s express provisions,” said Tamerlin J. Godley, an attorney with Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP, Los Angeles-based pro-bono counsel for the plaintiffs. “The harms that will follow from this unconstitutional law will undoubtedly have a devastating effect on the thousands of public school students, who have a right to a quality education. This law must be stopped before it takes effect.”

In addition to the Munger, Tolles and Olson attorneys, David Sciarra and Amanda Morgan of the non-profit Education Law Center (ELC) in Newark, NJ, and Las Vegas, a Rogers Foundation partner, are representing the students and parents. They are also represented pro bono by Justin Jones, attorney and associates from Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin LLP in Nevada.

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