Heartland Institute Education Experts React to Nevada Court Ruling on Education Savings Accounts

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This ruling is ultimately a win for Nevada students and will open the door for other similar school choice programs across the country.

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Joy Pulllman, senior fellow, The Heartland Institute

Education savings accounts and the private educators they can fund are indeed a form of public education.

The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the state’s current education savings account (ESA) program, ruling in Schwartz v. Lopez [Case No. 70648; Nevada Supreme Court that funds allocated for public schools cannot be diverted to private ESAs. However, the court also ruled in favor of ESAs as long as the funding comes from a different government program. Such funds would then “belong to parents,” the ruling stated, and would no longer be “public funds” – which would allow parents to use the funds to pay for tuition at parochial schools.

The following statements from education policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at jlakely(at)heartland(dot)org and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 312/731-9364.

“This bipolar ruling only delays the inevitable. Once the legislature fixes the technicality of how the accounts are funded, parents, rather than the education bureaucracy, will have the power of the purse. Parents will finally be free to fully direct the education of their children to a vast array of education options that specifically meet the needs of how their children learn best.”

Lennie Jarratt
Project Manager, Education
The Heartland Institute

“This ruling is ultimately a win for Nevada students and will open the door for other similar school choice programs across the country. The Nevada legislature now has a duty to fund the ESA program properly. Parents and their children will then be able to take full advantage of a program that lets them customize the learning experience to fit their needs and escape a one-size-fits-all system.”

Teresa Mull
Managing Editor, School Reform News
The Heartland Institute

“This is an outstanding ruling in favor of parental choice. It provides a clear path for Nevada legislators to clarify the funding mechanism so that the program can move forward on a sound constitutional basis. The ruling also provides encouragement for legislators in other states to pursue this innovative and flexible educational choice program.

“The injunction of the program should present only a minor setback to the school choice movement. Justice James Hardesty is to be commended on delivering a well-written, clearly argued, and fairly decided opinion on all three contested points. He does not misconstrue constitutional provisions and text, but simply applies them to the law as written, which is what the courts should do. This ruling should be forwarded to U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts with a note saying, ‘This is a good example of what you should have done with the Affordable Care Act, rather than becoming a quasi-legislator and rewriting the law yourself.’”

George Clowes
Senior Fellow, Education
The Heartland Institute

“The court rightly ruled the same way the U.S. Supreme Court did in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris in 2002, essentially saying that the public money goes to the family, not to the religious school. While the court did strike down the ESA funding mechanism, it shouldn’t require more than a legislative tweak to fix that.”

Larry Sand
Policy Advisor, Education
The Heartland Institute

“Reporters summarizing this ruling must be careful not to assume it says private schools do not perform a public service despite educating children to an objectively higher standard than public schools do. Education savings accounts and the private educators they can fund are indeed a form of public education. They use public goods as a means to ensure the public is well-educated. The best research has repeatedly and overwhelmingly shown that privately provided education does a better job of producing well-educated citizens than government-provided education.

“The Nevada attorney general is right to call this a win for the state’s children, as well as children all across the country whose elected representatives were watching this case. The court allows for public education to occur through multiple channels parents choose, and this will mean better education for more children, especially over time. Now lawmakers just need to step up and handle the technicalities so this innovative program can meet families’ needs.”

Joy Pullmann
Senior Fellow, Education
The Heartland Institute

“The Nevada Supreme Court’s strange ruling against the funding mechanism of ESAs may lead to even better public policy: Using refundable tax credits administered by the state’s revenue department. Then the educrats will have no hand in the program’s administration.”

David V. Anderson
Policy Advisor, Education
The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute is a 32-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our website or call 312/377-4000.

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Heartland Institute
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