- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada senators have approved a bill that would allow students to use the state funds designated for their public education at a private school.

Senators voted to approve SB302 on an 11-8 vote Wednesday, and the measure now moves to the Assembly.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Scott Hammond would allow students a grant equal to 90 percent of their per-pupil state funding allotment. Students could use the state money deposited in an education savings account for tuition, textbooks and tutoring.

Students would have to be enrolled in a public school for at least 100 days before receiving the grant - a provision that ensures the money doesn’t just support students who have long been enrolled in a private school.

Democrats railed against the measure and said it would take millions of dollars out of public schools at a critical time. Sen. Joyce Woodhouse said she feared that taking away money intended for public schools would cripple the state’s efforts to improve K-12 education.

“SB302 will take millions of dollars out of our public schools at a time when we need those dollars in our schools addressing the needs of those students,” she said.

Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer said that lawmakers in both parties were strong supporters of education, and that the bill was designed to give parents a way out of sending their children to failing schools and to break cycles of “generational poverty.”

“This gives kids an option out,” he said.

The bill is similar to a measure signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval that would create Opportunity Scholarships. That measure allows businesses to claim a tax credit if they donate to a scholarship fund that would help low-income children attend private schools.

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