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PARENTS TO HAVE THEIR DAY IN COURT TO STOP UNCONSTITUTIONAL
Nevada -- December 21, 2015 -- On January 6, 2016, Nevada
public school parents will ask a state court to declare Nevada's new voucher
law unconstitutional and block the State from implementing it. Judge James
Wilson will hear arguments from lawyers representing the parents and the
State in Carson City, the state capital.
The parents filed
suit in Lopez v. Schwartz in September, alleging
that the voucher statute violates the Nevada Constitution, which
prohibits taxpayer funds, provided by the State Legislature for
the operation of the public schools, from being used for any
other purpose. The parents claim the new law diverts funds earmarked
for Nevada's public schools to private schooling and other non-public
education expenses, in direct conflict with this provision of
In their complaint, the Lopez parents also assert
that the voucher law violates the Nevada Constitution by lowering
the amount of funding provided in the Nevada state budget for public
education and by using public funds to pay for tuition at institutions
that, unlike the public schools, are not required to serve all
students or follow anti-discrimination laws and are not accountable
for student performance.
The Lopez lawsuit is supported by Educate
Nevada Now! (ENN), a campaign of the Las Vegas-based Rogers
Foundation. The Foundation assembled a team of experienced Nevada
and national attorneys to represent the parents to ensure State
law protects and advances educational opportunities for all children.
The Rogers Foundation supports the parents' lawsuit because it
addresses an issue of vital importance to all Nevada public school
children and taxpayers -- whether public school funding must
be used to operate the public schools -- which must be resolved
by the Nevada courts.
"Nevada parents are eager to have their day in court," said David
Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center and a member
of the legal team representing the Lopez parents. "The Nevada
Constitution is unequivocal about the use of public funds appropriated
by the State Legislature for the public schools. These parents
are determined to protect and defend their schools."
The plaintiff parents are concerned that vouchers will take critically
needed funding away from the public schools and thereby reduce
the quality of the education their children receive. They know
that less funding will mean fewer teachers and programs available
to the 450,000 Nevada children attending public schools across
the state, many of whom are English language learners or children
with disabilities or other special needs.
"The parents are concerned not only about their own children's
education but the education of the hundreds of thousands of Nevada
schoolchildren who all deserve the protection of the state constitution," said
Sylvia Lazos, Policy Director for ENN."
Nevada's voucher law is unique: it creates the most expansive
voucher program in the nation, sets no household income limits,
has no cap on the number of vouchers issued or the total funding
dedicated to them, and allows public school funding to be used
to pay for a wide range of private spending, including private
and religious school tuition, transportation, and other expenses,
including those related to home-based education.
"This voucher program would deplete essential funding from the
public schools," said Tamerlin Godley, litigation partner with
Munger, Tolles & Olson, also representing the plaintiff parents. "And
it would divert public funds to private schools that are not accountable
for student outcomes and that can turn away students they choose
not to accept, which the public schools cannot and will not do."
After the Lopez parents filed their complaint and a Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the State responded by opposing the PI motion and filed a cross Motion to Dismiss the case. The motions have now been fully briefed. The hearing on January 6 at 1:30 p.m. in Carson City is the next step in the litigation, as the Court hears from the plaintiffs and the State on these motions and opposition to them. The parties expect Judge Wilson to rule soon after the hearing.
Education Law Center; Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin
LLP based in Nevada; and Munger, Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles
are the pro bono counsel representing the parents in their lawsuit.
The Attorney General is representing the State and defending State
Treasurer Dan Schwartz.
Education Law Center Press Contact: