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Lawsuits Challenging Nevada School Choice Law Go Before State's High Court

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Two lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Nevada's sweeping new school choice law are scheduled to be heard back-to-back by the state's supreme court Friday.

Nevada lawmakers passed a law over a year ago creating an education savings account program that allows families to use public money for private school and home schooling, among other approved educational expenses.  

What makes Nevada's program unique from other private school choice programs (like vouchers), is that all students who have been enrolled in a public school for at least 100 days are eligible for the program, regardless of income or disability status.

The first lawsuit is being brought by a group of taxpayers challenging the program on the grounds that it unconstitutionally funds religious groups because families can use their education savings accounts to pay for tuition at a private religious school. The second lawsuit, brought by a group of parents, claims the program is unconstitutional because it uses money expressly set aside for public schools.

Implementation of the program has been put on hold until a final decision on whether it's legal is made.

What Exactly Is an Education Savings Account?

ESAs are similar to a school vouchers but broader in scope. Whereas vouchers allow parents to use public money only toward private school tuition, under an education savings account program parents can use part of the state's per-pupil funding for their child for a range of approved educational expenses including private school tuition, home schooling supplies, tutoring, therapy, or online courses, to name a few.

(Here's a handy explainer on the differences between all the voucher spinoff programs).

Only a handful of other states, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee, have education savings account programs. The idea originated in Arizona about five years ago as a way for school choice advocates to get around a state supreme court decision that deemed traditional vouchers unconstitutional.

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