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Nevada education savings accounts delayed

January 12, 2016

Yesterday, a Nevada judge issued an injunction based on the state funding system that stalled the nation’s most expansive education savings account program. Nevada’s accounts, enacted last year and available to nearly a half-million public school students in the state, would award more than $5,000 to participating children.

With an account, the state deposits public funds in a private account that parents use to buy educational products and services for their children. Parents can customize their child’s learning experience with several options like online classes and private tutors and pay private school tuition if they choose.

Nevada’s accounts are similar to education savings accounts in Arizona  and Florida, where the Goldwater Institute successfully defended the accounts from legal challenges. In Arizona, the Institute worked alongside the Institute for Justice and State Superintendent John Huppenthal. The Institute defended participating families from state teachers’ unions who claimed the accounts violated provisions of the state constitution—similar to cases pending in Nevada.

In Arizona, both the trial court and the state appeals court found that education savings accounts do not shift funds from the state to private schools, but rather empower parents to choose to spend the funds to suit their children’s needs best. Appeals Judge Jon W. Thompson wrote in the unanimous Court of Appeals’ decision, “Where ESA funds are spent depends solely upon how parents choose to educate their children. Eligible school children may choose to remain in public school, attend a religious school, or a nonreligious private school. They may also use the funds for educational therapies, tutoring services, online learning programs and other curricula, or even at a postsecondary institution.” The Arizona Supreme Court refused to reconsider that ruling, upholding the state’s landmark education savings accounts.

In Florida, opponents to parental choice in education filed a lawsuit on procedural grounds, and a trial judge dismissed the case—again, upholding the accounts.

Lawmakers in Tennessee and Mississippi have also enacted education savings account laws.

More than 4,000 students have applied for the accounts in Nevada, including Zavia Manning’s daughters Laila and Caitlyn. In an interview with the Goldwater Institute last year, Zavia said when she learned about the accounts, she was excited to use them with her children. “I thought, for my family, we need this,” she said.

Lawsuits like the one enjoining Nevada’s accounts delays families like Zavia’s from finding quality education options. Lawsuits like the one enjoining Nevada’s accounts delays families like Zavia’s from finding quality education options. Fortunately for families and their children, the court did not grant an injunction based on all charges in the lawsuit—the injunction is narrowly focused on school funding provisions. The court enjoined the accounts based on issues of “sufficient” school funding unique to the state constitution and called for a trial.

Every child deserves the chance at the American Dream, and education savings accounts help make such opportunities possible. Defendants in the case are expected to appeal all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court if necessary, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

For the sake of all Nevada public school children, let’s hope they do—and that state courts see the value in helping every child find the learning experience they need.

For more information about education savings accounts, contact Jonathan Butcher at



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