Day: <span>January 13, 2016</span>

Judge blocks Nevada voucher program touted by Patrick


Nevada’s new system of private school vouchers that Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was touting last week has been blocked, at least temporarily, by a Nevada judge, who ruled that the scheme, which would drain tax dollars from public schools, violated the Nevada Constitution.

In remarks to the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, Patrick said he would push during the 2017 legislative session for tax credit scholarships that would help public school students from all economic backgrounds – not just low-income kids — transfer to private or religious schools. He said the Legislature may want to copy Nevada’s “education savings accounts.”

Whatever your call them, scholarships or savings accounts, they are vouchers that would steal much-needed tax dollars from already under-funded public schools, where the vast majority of Texas students will continue to be educated.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, District Judge James Wilson of Carson City granted an injunction against the new law in a lawsuit brought by six parents who are challenging the program. He said the plaintiffs are likely to prevail at trial because the Nevada Constitution requires the Legislature to “set apart or assign money to be used to fund the operation of public schools, to the exclusion of all other purposes.”

The Texas Constitution is worded a little differently, but it also requires Texas legislators to fund a system of free public schools and says nothing about siphoning tax dollars to subsidize private school tuition.

Voucher proponents, nevertheless, will remain undeterred. The state of Nevada likely will appeal the district judge’s order to the Nevada Supreme Court and try to jump-start what is considered the most sweeping voucher law in the country. Students selected for the program would receive, on average, about $5,100 per year.

And, in Texas, Patrick, the self-proclaimed education “evangelist” and “expert” in his own mind, will continue to promote vouchers and a host of other unproven privatization schemes while squeezing the budgets of public schools.