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AG files for expedited Supreme Court decision on school voucher program

CARSON CITY — The attorney general’s office filed a motion Thursday with the Nevada Supreme Court seeking an expedited appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked implementation of a program allowing parents to tap taxpayer money to pay for private school tuition.

The motion argues the injunction issued by District Judge James Wilson unleashed “uncertainty and disruption” for families who “now face the agonizing choice of whether or not to continue pursuing the educational options best suited to their children.”

It further claims the state treasurer’s office has spent more than $100,000 and hundreds of hours of staff time trying to implement the program, and the longer the injunction remains in place the more it will cost to restart it.

The education savings accounts program passed by the 2015 Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval seeks to allow parents to use the state portion of per-pupil funding — about $5,100 annually for most students — to offset some of the cost of sending their children to private or religious schools. It also would be available for children who are homeschooled or attend other educational programs.

One requirement is that children in most cases first attend public schools for 100 days before they are eligible to receive funding.

Wilson last week issued an injunction sought by some parents who argued the program is unconstitutional because it takes away money from the state education budget and will erode the quality of their children’s public education.

State Treasurer Dan Schwartz, whose office administers the program, said about 4,100 parents have submitted early applications. He had hoped to begin funding the accounts in February, though those efforts are now on hold as the case is considered by the Supreme Court.

Under a proposed timeline, it would be mid to late March at the earliest before all the legal briefs are filed, even if the case is fast-tracked.

The high court is also weighing whether a separate group of parents who were counting on obtaining money through the program should be allowed to join the suit.

The lower court judge denied their request to intervene, determining their interests were the same as those of the state, which is defending the ESA program.

Justices, in an order last week, asked for written briefs on that issue.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Find her on Twitter: @SandraChereb

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