Judge Blocks School Choice Petition
A Nevada judge blocked a school choice initiative aiming to add Nevada school vouchers for parents in the state.
School choice has been the topic of many conversations across the nation. Parents are completely fed up with the public education school system and now would like the ability to take their tax money along with their children to a school they feel offers the best learning opportunity. While many bills are moving forward on school choice, others are being stalled. The latest comes from a Carson City, Nevada judge who has ruled against a potential amendment to the state’s constitution while still considering Nevada school vouchers.
In his ruling, Senior Judge Charles McGee said that signatures are not allowed to be collected for a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow parents to use their state tax money for private schools or even homeschooling. Judge McGee went on to explain his decision by saying the wording by the political action committee, Education Freedom PAC, basically hides “the enormous fiscal impact of this initiative on the budget of most, if not all” of the public schools in Nevada. McGee also wrote in his decision, “The petition must be invalidated because of lack of clarity of consequences.”
Erin Phillips, Education Freedom PAC leader and head of the advocacy group Power2Parent, was unquestionably less than thrilled with not only McGee’s decision but also by the length of time it took him to come to his conclusion. Phillips has not said whether they will appeal the decision to the state’s Supreme Court. But of his decision, she called Judge McGee’s ruling “a bizarre, rambling decision.” She said it should have come weeks earlier but ultimately ended with opponents of the two Nevada school vouchers ballot measures happy the judge blocked Education Freedom from being able to collect signatures. These opponents had earlier filed lawsuits in an attempt to stop Phillips and her group from moving forward.
These opponents included Chairwoman Beverly Rogers of the philanthropic Rogers Foundation along with its CEO Rory Reid. Both Rogers and Reid argued that Nevada Public Schools are chronically underfunded and that by putting Nevada school vouchers on the 2022 ballot could eventually do even more damage to the already hurting public school system. If the judge would have allowed the measure to move forward, Phillips would have needed to get nearly 141,000 signatures to put both bills on the ballot.
Education Freedom was trying to put forth two initiatives. One was looking to amend the state’s constitution to allow for the creation of education freedom accounts where the state funds could be taken and used by families in order to better their child’s education. The other initiative would have lawmakers consider a Nevada school vouchers program that would be similar to the amended constitution request. In McGee’s ruling, he said that it only affected the amended constitution initiative. He has yet to decide on the Nevada school vouchers program. Phillips knew and understood there would be pushback by “those who want to protect the status quo.” She stated that their opposition wouldn’t stop her group from moving forward. “We are confident in the language and it is clear that Nevadans are ready for a fundamental change to our approach to education,” she said via the Nevada Appeal. McGee’s decision appears to have slowed down their push.
On the opposite side, the deep-pocketed opponents say the Nevada school vouchers measure is not about school choice at all. “Let’s be clear, we are not talking about school choice, we’re talking about the school’s choice to reject students because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, religious affiliation … or because they need additional resources to succeed,” Rogers said in a statement. “We support public schools because they serve all students.”
The fight is not over for Nevada school vouchers, but it is teetering. Parents feel they deserve a say so in where their school tax money is going, and they also feel the public school system is not in their child’s best interest. The battle rages on.