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  April 25, 2016
 
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CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS URGE COURT TO UPHOLD RULING STOPPING VOUCHER LAW

NAACP, MALDEF and SPLC Submit Amicus Brief in Nevada Supreme Court

CARSON CITY, NV – On April 19, three leading civil right groups submitted an amicus curiae, friend of the court, brief to the Nevada Supreme Court on behalf of plaintiff parents in Lopez v. Schwartz, asking the Justices to affirm a lower court decision finding Nevada’s recently enacted voucher law violates the state constitution.

The Nevada District Court in January also issued a preliminary injunction preventing implementation of the voucher law. The State appealed the court’s ruling.

The amici – Las Vegas NAACPMexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) – have extensive experience defending the education rights of students in poverty and those learning English. They submitted their brief to inform the Supreme Court about the needs of specific populations of students attending Nevada’s public schools and to assist the Court in understanding the impact the voucher law, Senate Bill 302 (SB 302), would have on public school students.

SB 302 authorizes the Nevada State Treasurer to divert funds from the budgets of Nevada public schools into "Education Savings Accounts" (ESAs), set up for families to use to pay for private school or other private education expenses. As the district court found when it enjoined SB 302, ESAs would reduce the resources that the Legislature determined to be necessary to educate the 460,000 children attending Nevada public schools and would cause the students irreparable harm.

The NAACP, MALDEF and SPLC brief focuses on four issues critical to understanding the impact of the new voucher law on Nevada public school students:

  • Nevada’s student demographics are fast-changing, with rapid growth in the number of students overall and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students (at-risk students). The Nevada public schools are also expected to continue to experience growth in the number of students not yet proficient in English (English language learners or ELLs).
  • At-risk and ELL students require additional programs and services to afford them the opportunity to meet Nevada’s academic standards and to prepare them for civic responsibilities and participation in the state’s 21st-century economy. In recent years, the Nevada Legislature has recognized the need for specific programs and services targeted to address the extra educational needs of these students.
  • Any reduction in public school funding below current levels, which would result from the implementation of SB 302, would deprive Nevada students of critical educational resources. Nevada public school funding is among the lowest in the nation and greatly in need of reform, a condition recognized by the Legislature itself. The cuts to staff, programs and services that would result from a reduction in funding to schools will cause educational harm to public school students.
  • ESAs will be of little, if any, benefit to Nevada’s hundreds of thousands of at-risk and ELL students. Most of the private schools in Nevada are expensive, not located in or near low-income neighborhoods, and able to deny admission to students who are academically at-risk and in need of extra educational services.

The amici request that the Supreme Court prevent implementation of the voucher law by affirming the lower court’s finding that the law violates the Nevada Constitution and the preliminary injunction entered by the district court.

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Education Law Center Press Contact:

Molly A. Hunter

Education Justice, Director

mhunter@edlawcenter.org

973-624-1815, x 19

 
     
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