When Nevada passed its almost-universal Education Savings Account (ESA) bill earlier this year, many parents of private school students celebrated…until they discovered that their children weren’t eligible. The groundbreaking law offered parents up to $5700 for educational expenses if they opted out of a public school education for their child. However, eligibility was limited to children who had attended a public school in the immediately preceding one hundred days. As Agudath Israel’s Rabbi A. D. Motzen recently pointed out, that clause excluded many families, including current private school students, entering kindergartners and those moving from out of state.
Thankfully, Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz and bill sponsor Senator Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) teamed up to try to include as many parents as possible by drafting the regulations in the broadest possible terms. The draft proposal offers several pathways for current private school students to receive an ESA in 2016.
Following the release of the draft proposals, Treasurer Schwartz scheduled a public workshop for parents on July 17th. Dozens of parents packed hearing rooms in Las Vegas and Carson City to encourage Treasurer Schwartz to include their children in the program. During the workshop, Senator Hammond announced that his intention was to include students entering kindergarten and new to the state and that the regulations will reflect those intentions.
Agudath Israel will continue working with Jewish community leaders and school choice advocates in Nevada to ensure that the state’s newest school choice programs will, in fact, be truly universal.
Nevada also enacted a scholarship tax credit program this session which will hopefully begin to assist students for the 2015-16 school year. So far, five scholarship organizations and dozens of schools, including two Jewish day schools, have already registered with the state. The maximum scholarship award is $7755 and students must belong to a family with an income level of not more than 300 percent of the federally designated level signifying poverty. Parents may apply for a scholarship by contacting any of the scholarship funds directly. A list may be found here.