Nevada fights back against ACLU suit over voucher-style Education Savings Account program

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada is fighting back against a lawsuit that could dismantle the state's sweeping new school choice program, saying the program is neutral on religion even if parents can apply public funds to parochial schools.

The Nevada Attorney General's Office filed a motion Monday asking a judge to dismiss a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that challenges Education Savings Accounts. The program, which is considered the broadest school choice program in the country because it's not limited by factors such as family income, allows parents to claim most of their child's per-pupil state education funding and use it toward private school tuition or other qualified education expenses.

"The opponents of parental choice are desperately trying to stop Nevada's innovative and ambitious program that has already garnered praise and imitation in other states, before it sweeps the nation," Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Nov. 25 in Clark County.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued in August, arguing that the new law violates the so-called "Blaine Amendment" in the Nevada Constitution that bans using public funds for sectarian purposes. Other states have similar language in their constitutions, and the outcome of the Nevada fight could inform cases there.

"Parents have a right to send their children to religious schools, but they are not entitled to do so at taxpayers' expense," ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Tod Story said when the lawsuit was filed.

Story said Monday that that ACLU had received the motion and was reviewing it, but said they were confident that the program was unconstitutional, regardless of the state's arguments.

"We will continue to vigorously protect the rights of Nevadans guaranteed under the Nevada Constitution," he said.

The attorney general's office argues that the program doesn't provide money directly to sectarian institutions but to parents, who can choose to use it at a religious school or elsewhere. The state also argues that giving money to all families except those who prefer a religious school would unfairly burden religious parents.

"This lawsuit asks our courts to twist Nevada's Constitution in ways never imagined, much less intended, by our framers," Laxalt said in a statement.

Read more here.

Laxalt enjoys battling Obama administration

Attorney General Adam Laxalt loves his job. That was apparent when he spoke to the Republican Mens Club dinner on Monday night.

“If you told me when I was in Georgetown law that somehow, many years later, that I would have a job where I am defending the constitution, defending the rule of law, I just could not ask for more,” he told the crowd.

The crowd loved him, gave him a standing O.

Some see the grandson of former U.S. Sen and Gov. Paul Laxalt as a major up-and-comer in Nevada politics.

“He’s going to eclipse Brian Sandoval someday,” said Todd “Taxpayer” Bailey, a conservative activist.

Laxalt really seemed to enjoy telling the crowd about his job.

He opened up by telling the crowd that his office has secured funding ($5.6 million grant) to test the backlog of 7,500 rape kits in the state. Rape kits contain evidence and biological specimens from people who say they were sexually assaulted. It seems like a crime in itself that the Nevada backlog is so massive.

“These kits have been sitting on the shelf for 35 years,” Laxalt said. “People asked me how that happened. I don’t know. We’ve been here since January and it is a priority for us to fix it.”

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