Lawsuit aims to block Nevada school voucher petition drive
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A battle over getting a school vouchers question before voters in Nevada is returning to state court, with a lawsuit aiming to block the state’s top elections official from putting measures on the ballot that seek to let parents use state money to pay for private school tuition.
Two well-known top officials at the philanthropic Rogers Foundation — Chairwoman Beverly Rogers and CEO Rory Reid — filed lawsuits Tuesday aimed at stopping the Education Freedom PAC from trying to collect the almost 141,000 voter signatures needed put two initiatives on the 2022 ballot.
One measure would amend the state constitution to create an “education savings account” for K-12 students to attend schools “and educational programs other than public schools.”
The other would force state lawmakers to enact a voucher-style program with the same effect.
Education Freedom officials including its leader, Erin Phillips, did not immediately respond Thursday to messages seeking comment about the court challenge.
Phillips, co-founder and president of the advocacy organization Power2Parent, told the Nevada Independent that litigation was expected from “those who want to protect the status quo,” and wouldn’t stop her group’s effort.
“We are confident in the language and it is clear that Nevadans are ready for a fundamental change to our approach to education,” she said.
The legal challenges were filed in Carson City District Court against Nevada’s Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske. They ask a judge to block the petition and proposed initiative as flawed and misleading.
“The description of effect misleadingly fails to disclose that any funding appropriated for the contemplated program would inevitably ... (lead) to deterioration in Nevada’s public school system,” one lawsuit said.
“Let’s be clear, we are not talking about school choice, we’re talking about the school’s choice to reject students because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, religious affiliation ... or because they need additional resources to succeed,” Rogers said in a statement. “We support public schools because they serve all students.”
Nevada’s K-12 schools have long been at or near the bottom of national rankings in per-pupil spending, class size and student achievement. State lawmakers were told in March 2021 that it would cost about $800 million in new spending just to meet national student-to-teacher ratios.
The Las Vegas-based foundation was created by Jim Rogers, the late former Nevada media mogul and university chancellor, and his wife, Beverly Rogers. It backs a policy organization called Educate Nevada Now.
It said the initiatives could divert another $300 million per year from public to private schools, homeschooling parents or other expenses.
“Our public schools are grossly underfunded,” Reid said in the statement, “and this effort ... will only make matters worse.”