June 29, 2016 - 8:00 pm
Thousands of Nevada parents remain in limbo thanks to legal challenges to the state’s groundbreaking school choice law, approved during the 2015 Legislature. Yet the ACLU sought to drag out their uncertainty a bit longer.
On Monday, the ACLU filed an emergency challenge to the timeline the state Supreme Court has set to hear arguments in the matter, urging the proceedings be postponed for another month or two.
A day later, the justices rejected the request. Good.
The court on July 29 is scheduled to hear two separate efforts to scuttle Senate Bill 302, which allows parents to set up savings accounts of about $5,100 a year to be used for private school tuition, home schooling, tutoring or other education options. The money would be diverted from state per-pupil funding.
The ACLU argues the program violates the state constitution — which states that “No public funds of any kind or character whatsoever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purposes” — because parents may use the money to send their kids to private religious institutions.
Proponents of the choice plan contend, among other things, that the legislation passes constitutional muster because decisions on how and where to spend the money reside solely with parents and not the state.
In May, a Clark County District Court judge rejected the ACLU’s arguments and upheld the constitutionality of the program. Opponents had better luck back in January, when — in a separate lawsuit challenging the legislation — a Reno judge held that the choice plan illegally diverts money from public education.
An expeditious resolution to the cases makes eminent sense. Parents must meet certain requirements for eligibility, which include enrollment mandates and other stipulations that they need to address in advance of an upcoming school year. Holding the arguments on July 29 should give families enough leeway to make plans accordingly, assuming the justices render a quick decision.
The ACLU has had more than a year to prepare its opposition to Nevada’s school choice law and has fought similar laws in other states. The group’s attorneys have long been aware that the attorney general sought to accelerate a resolution to this dispute in order to minimize the disruption to Nevada families and kids seeking to expand their educational opportunities.
The court did the right thing in refusing the ACLU’s motion. Additional delays would be counterproductive and unnecessary.