Minor ruling begins fight over vouchers

In the first of what will be a series of rulings involving the challenges to Nevada’s vouchers law, the Nevada Supreme Court has rejected efforts by parents in favor of the program to intervene in the constitutionality challenge.

It’s a minor ruling upholding the decision by District Judge James Wilson to reject their petition to intervene. Wilson said it wasn’t necessary since the interests of those parents are represented by Treasurer Dan Schwartz and his counsel through the AG’s office.

The high court panel of Justices Jim Hardesty, Nancy Saitta and Kris Pickering on Thursday agreed saying simply that those parents who want the voucher money to place their children in private schools gave no credible reason why the Attorney General’s office couldn’t handle their side of the case. It says the only issue at stake is whether the law is constitutional or not and the Attorney General’s staff is fully willing to defend the law’s constitutionality.

The high court still has not ruled on the Attorney General’s petition to lift the injunction prohibiting Schwartz’s office from issuing voucher checks until the constitutionality of the law is resolved. Wilson issued the injunction after opponents of the law pointed out once that money is out the door, there would be no way to get it back if the law was found unconstitutional. Wilson said in issuing the injunction plaintiffs had clearly met their burden of showing likely success on the merits of the lawsuit and, therefore, the injunction was warranted.

The suits arguing the Educational Savings Accounts created by SB302 are unconstitutional hasn’t yet been resolved at the lower court level and, so, isn’t before the Supreme Court at this point.

Opponents filed two actions against the state challenging that law — one in Las Vegas and one in Carson City.

The Carson City case is before Wilson and points to provisions in the Nevada Constitution that says public funds appropriated for public schools can only be used to fund public schools.

In addition, the state Constitution prohibits the transfer of public money to religious groups.

Most of the private schools involved are operated by religious organizations.

The judge in the Las Vegas case has yet to rule on any of the issues raised there.

SB302 created a system in which parents could take up to $5,000 a school year in state funds and use the money to help pay tuition for their children to attend private schools. The Educational Savings Accounts were created as a device to give the cash to parents instead of directly to the private schools, an attempt to skate around the constitutional bar opponents say fails completely.


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