The Nevada state government approved the $125,000 retainer of a prominent law firm to defend the state’s new school choice program, as the program’s legality goes before the state Supreme Court.
Nevada’s Board of Examiners on Tuesday approved the funds to pay Bancroft PLLC, headed by former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement. Bancroft was already paid $295,000 by the state to defend the school voucher program at the district court level. In that case, District Judge James Wilson ruled the program to be in violation of parts of the Nevada’s constitution because it appropriates public tax dollars to fund private education. Wilson ordered the state treasurer to hold off on dispersing money to parents, who had requested it through the program to pay for their children to be educated somewhere other than their local public school.
Nevada’s program is the most sweeping school choice program in the country, funding individual savings accounts for every Nevada student, akin to retirement accounts and, more recently, health savings accounts through employers. The money, about $5100 per student, can be used for any educational purpose, such as tuition at private and religious schools. The money can even be saved to fund the child’s future college tuition if the child is homeschooled.
Created last year with passage of Senate Bill 302, the program has been heavily criticized for taking money from public schools to subsidize tuition for wealthy families who can easily afford it. While other states allow for parents to similarly use state funds for private education, those programs are only open to low income families and children attending the worst schools.
In August, a group of parents, along with former Democratic state Sen. Justin Jones filed the lawsuit that is now headed to Nevada’s Supreme Court. A separate lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleging the program violates the state constitution’s prohibition against the use of public money for religious purposes.