Parents rally to challenge Nevada's ESA program

LAS VEGAS - Thousands of Nevada families are in limbo as they await a decision on the state's school choice voucher-style program.  

The State Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on a challenge to the program that lets parents use state school funding for their kids to go to private school.

A small group of parents demonstrated in front of the Rogers Foundation Tuesday.  With posters in their hands, parents voiced their frustration with the on-going litigation over the Nevada Education Savings Account program.

"We've been very patient at the expense of our children, and we're not going to put up with it anymore," said Shannon Churchwell, a parent.

Churchwell organized the rally outside the Rogers Foundation because it houses the non-profit "Educate Nevada Now" organization.  Educate Nevada NOW is one of the groups challenging the ESA program.

"It's not fair," according to advocate Hergit Llenas.

During the rally, one protester was moved to tears talking about the more than 5,000 families who are in limbo after applying for the voucher.

"They don't have the money and with all the money, they don't have solutions. This, the ESA, gave them that solution," said Llenas.

However, the so-called "solution" is on hold pending a ruling from the Nevada Supreme Court.

Under the state program, families will eceive up to $5,000 per student of public school funds to use for other educational purposes including: private school, home schooling, and tutoring.  One of the organizations fighting to block ESA's says the program is outright illegal.

"It is the most wide ranging voucher scheme in the history of the United States of America," said Rory Reid, president of Rogers Foundation.

The lawsuit claims the use of public funds to pay for private school tuition is unconstitutional because it supports a religious institution.

"We think the choice in education is important, but nevada voucher scheme is the wrong choice," Reid said.

But many parents believe the choice is theirs.

"We make so many decisions for our children all the time so education should be a part of that right," Churchwell said.

The state's highest court has not said when it will issue a ruling on ESA, so the state is sitting on the vouchers.  In the meantime, parents can apply for the ESA program from now through June 30.

There isn't a particular family income required, but a child must attend public school for at least 100 consecutive days.  The only exceptions to this rule are kindergarten children and kids who have active duty military parents.

To enroll in the program go here.


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