Supporters of a lawsuit against Nevada’s Education Savings Accounts (ESA) program are twisting the facts on funding, alleging that the program will reduce funds available for public school students once the program is implemented. Not only are these claims false, but for every student who participates in the ESA program, per-pupil funding for public school students will actually increase. Given that Nevada public schools face some of the lowest levels of per-pupil funding and overcrowding in the country, it is crucial that Nevadans understand the false and misleading claims at the heart of this lawsuit.
As Raul Espinoza explained for The LIBRE Initiative last week, some of the plaintiffs’ complaints have actually managed to bog down the program in legal proceedings:
“This past June, thousands of families and students in Nevada were thrilled to hear the news that the state passed the nation’s first universal school choice program in the form of an Education Savings Accounts (ESA) program. The program would have expanded educational choice starting this year, giving parents an increased opportunity to select the schools that they deem best for their child. When early enrollment closed, the Nevada Treasurer’s Office reported over 4,100 savings accounts had been set up.
Unfortunately for these families and students, the sweeping school choice program they were so hopeful for has now been delayed in the courts. Opponents of the new program filed lawsuits questioning the constitutionality of the savings accounts. A state judge agreed, and granted an injunction to the opponents, effectively putting the program on hold and placing over 4,000 students in uncertainty over their educational future.”
One of the core allegations of the lawsuit is that it reduces funding for public school students, but this claim simply does not hold water. Per-pupil education spending in the state of Nevada has averaged between $8,000 and $9,000 since 2008, yet the total amount of funding that can be withdrawn averages only $5,100. That means that every student who participates in the ESA program will actually leave Nevada public schools with a surplus. Using Clark County as an example, the Friedman Foundation estimates that once the amount of money in the ESA is subtracted from state, federal, and local revenue, a surplus of $4,037 will be left in the system for each student who participates in the ESA program.
Clark County School District is the fifth largest school district in the United States, and suffers from severely overcrowded classrooms. The last thing officials need to do is make it harder to pull children out of these failing public schools and into private schools that better suit their needs, especially when doing so will increase the funding available per pupil for those students who stay. Already, more than 4,000 Nevada students have registered to participate in the program, yet the lawsuit and judge’s injunction have put their educational future in jeopardy. For these students, and the more than three quarters of a million Hispanics who call the Silver State their home, the solution to overcrowding and under-funding is clear: drop the suit.