- Associated Press - Friday, July 29, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The Latest on Nevada Supreme Court arguments about whether a broad program to allow public money to fund parents’ choice to send children to private schools is constitutional (all times local):

1:45 p.m.

Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Parraguirre says he’s cognizant of families who are anxiously awaiting a decision on whether a voucher-style education program passes constitutional muster.

His comments came after two back-to-back hearings Friday on legal challenges against Education Savings Accounts, which are on hold as the cases work their way through the court. The program allows parents to claim state education funding and apply it to private school tuition.

Justices in the second hearing honed in on concerns from Americans United for Separation of Church and State that the money unconstitutionally supports religion when it applies to religious private schools.

Lawyers defending the state say parents are the ones choosing where the money will go, and the state keeps its constitutional neutrality because it’s not controlling that choice.


12 p.m.

A lawyer challenging a voucher-style education program argues that it violates a provision requiring Nevada lawmakers to prioritize funding for public schools.

Legislators approved $2 billion last year for an account that funds public schools and supports the vouchers.

Attorney Tamerlin Godley argued before the Nevada Supreme Court on Friday that public school funding should have been approved before money for the voucher program, not simultaneously.

She also argued that the $2 billion was considered sufficient for funding public schools, and drawing the account down to fund vouchers would violate another constitutional provision requiring sufficient school funding.

Attorney Paul Clement defended the constitutionality of the Legislature’s move, saying the state guarantees a minimum amount to schools per pupil and kicks in additional money if necessary.


9:40 a.m.

Hundreds of protesters for and against a sweeping Nevada school choice program turned out at a downtown Las Vegas courthouse with signs and bullhorns to voice their opinions about the constitutionality of the measure.

The peaceful but loud demonstrations come ahead of Nevada Supreme Court arguments Friday about an Education Savings Accounts program created last year by the state Legislature, but stopped at least temporarily by a lower court ruling.

Educate Nevada Now official Sylvia Lazos (LAH’-zohs) says letting the state give vouchers to parents is illegal because it gives taxpayer money to private schools.

Hergit Coco Llenas (HER’-gee KOH’-koh JAY’-nas) of the Nevada School Choice Partnership says the law gives parents the money and the opportunity to put their children in schools that offer them a better education.

Public schools in Las Vegas and Nevada rank at or near the bottom in the nation in funding and graduation rates.


3 a.m.

The Nevada Supreme Court is considering whether a program dubbed the nation’s broadest school choice measure passes constitutional muster.

Lawyers on either side of the Education Savings Accounts program are set to argue in back-to-back hearings Friday morning.

The program created by the Nevada Legislature last year allows parents to claim a majority of their child’s per-pupil state education funds and use it toward private school tuition or other qualified schooling expenses.

Two lawsuits were filed against it, and a judge blocked implementation of the program this winter. Opponents say it violates a constitutional provision banning public money for sectarian purposes, and unconstitutionally directs money away from public schools.

Proponents hope to get the program running again before the new school year, although justices are unlikely to rule on Friday.

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