Adam Laxalt Wins On School Choice for Nevada Children

by Jonathan Keim | September 30th, 2016

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt won a big victory for school choice yesterday as the Nevada Supreme Court upheld the state’s education savings account program against a challenge under the state’s Blaine Amendment.

Blaine Amendments typically bar state funds from going to a “sectarian” purpose, with “sectarian” originally understood to mean “Catholic.” 36 states have some sort of Blaine Amendment, most of which were enacted in the late 19th century as part of a wave of anti-Catholic/anti-immigrant sentiment. Many states have used their Blaine Amendments as a reason – or sometimes an excuse – to strike down school choice programs that help parents and children pursue education through alternatives to state-run public schools. Some states have especially broad Blaine Amendments, and one of those is currently before the Supreme Court in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley.

The Nevada Supreme Court ultimately upheld the state’s education savings account program, but struck down the funding mechanism. As the Wall Street Journal points out, the legislature can easily fix that issue later this fall. The most important part of the decision is the court’s conclusion that

[o]nce the public funds are deposited into an education savings account, the funds are no longer “public funds” but are instead the private funds of the individual parent who established the account. . . . Any decision by the parent to use the funds in his or her account to pay tuition at a religious school does not involve the use of “public funds” and thus does not implicate Section 10.

Kudos to AG Laxalt on this important victory!

This post has been updated.