Nevadans making under $50K account for two-thirds of ESA applications

Two-thirds of the completed applications for Nevada’s Education Savings Account program come from households making less than $50,000 a year, data provided Monday by the state treasurer’s office shows.

Only 370 applications, or 4 percent of roughly 8,500 received thus far, are considered completed.

Of the completed applications, 245 are from households that report making less than $50,000. That’s 66 percent of the total.

The income levels on the applications are self-reported and have not been verified yet, according to a spokesman for the treasurer’s office.

The breakdown of the remaining 125 applications shows a somewhat more even division in household income: 52 report making between $50,000 and $100,000; 67 report making between $100,000 and $250,000; six are from families making more than $250,000.

For the 2016-17 year, the standard grant would have been about $5,200, while the grant for low-income students and students with disabilities would have been about $5,700.

In addition to the completed applications, about 6,400 applications exist in the online system but are missing information, said spokesman Adam Varahachaikol. The treasurer’s office is waiting for applicants to submit more information before those applications can be considered complete.

An additional 2,000 applications exist in paper form and have not yet been entered into the online system because the applications have to be manually entered by staff in the treasurer’s office.

“The ESA application process has been moving smoothly ‎as parents become more familiar with the online portal, and the treasurer’s office continues to make progress decreasing the number of preliminary applications left to be transferred to our online system,” Grant Hewitt, the treasurer’s chief of staff, said in a statement. “We are committed to being ready to fund ESAs at the earliest moment, pending a legislative appropriation.”

The law, passed in the 2015 session, has yet to get off the ground after funding for the program was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in September.

“People from all kinds of economic backgrounds are going to take advantage of this program because what they’re taking advantage of is the ability to choose their child’s education,” said Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, the author of the original bill.

Hammond will have to introduce a bill this session to amend the law, which likely will encounter opposition from Democrats.

Hammond has the backing of Gov. Brian Sandoval, who pledged $60 million in his proposed budget to the program during the next two years.

The program, which allows families to leave public schools and use a percentage of what the state spends per pupil on private school tuition, tutoring or home-school expenses, has been criticized as attracting only middle-class or wealthy families.

A 2015 Review-Journal analysis showed that half of the nearly 3,100 applications at that time listed an address in a ZIP code ranked among the top 40 percent of median households in Nevada.

Contact Meghin Delaney at 702-383-0281 or mdelaney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @MeghinDelaney on Twitter.