Following news that the ACLU of Nevada has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) Program, Institute for Justice (IJ) Senior Attorney Tim Keller issued the following statement today, August 27, 2015. ESAs enable parents the freedom to choose a school more in line with their values system, rather than being tethered to old-style geographical boundaries or relying on what is effectively a lottery system found in many school districts in an effort to get a quality education for their children.
Keller advised the state legislature during the drafting of the ESA program to ensure it complies with the Nevada Constitution. Keller’s statement:
We worked closely with the state legislature throughout the drafting process to ensure the program’s constitutionality, and we fully intend to defend it against this baseless and cynical lawsuit. Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) Program was enacted to help parents and children whose needs are not being met in their current public schools, and we will work with them to intervene in this lawsuit and defeat it.
The Supreme Court of the United States, as well as numerous state supreme courts, have already held that educational choice programs, like Nevada’s ESA Program, are constitutional. We expect the same from Nevada courts.
The ACLU claims the ESA program unconstitutionally furthers a religious or sectarian purpose because it allows parents to choose religious educational options for their children. But it is precisely the independent decision-making by parents that severs any link between church and state. As with all constitutional educational choice programs, parents—and not the government—decide the best educational setting for their child.
The Institute for Justice has repeatedly turned back similar legal attacks against educational choice programs across the nation, and we intend to do the same here. Most relevant to today’s lawsuit is the Institute for Justice’s successful defense of Arizona’s ESA program, upon which Nevada’s program is modeled. Just like Arizona’s ESA program, Nevada’s ESA program does not set aside a single dollar for religious purposes, but instead gives parents a genuine choice as to how to spend the money deposited in their child’s education savings account.”
For more than two decades, IJ has been the nation’s leading legal advocate for educational choice programs. IJ has intervened on behalf of parents in more than 20 lawsuits challenging educational choice programs. Most recently, IJ attorneys helped defeat lawsuits challenging educational choice programs in Alabama and North Carolina. IJ’s attorneys are the leading experts on the constitutionality of educational choice programs, and they have advised legislators, including those in Nevada, about the elements of constitutional educational choice programs.