Holding that the state constitution prohibits the transfer of funds appropriated for the public schools to any other purpose, Judge James Wilson of the First Judicial District Court of Nevada (Carson City) issued a preliminary injunction earlier last month in Lopez v. Schwartz that prohibits the state from implementing its recently-enacted school voucher law (SB 302). The case was brought by a number of public school parents.
SB 302, adopted last summer, authorized the State Treasurer to use public funds to establish Education Savings Accounts (ESAs.) Funds in these accounts may be used to fund private school tuition, tutoring, home schooling and transportation. The treasurer may enter into written agreements with individual parents that will require him to provide for each student’s account 90% of the average public school base per capita funding support amount, and 100% of such amount for low-income students and students with disabilities. The law does not limit the number of ESAs that can be established, cap the total amount spent for these accounts or apply any income test for parents seeking to open such accounts.
The Court held that Art. XI §§ 6.1 and 6.2 require that all funds appropriated for the public schools must be used for public schools only, and that the Education Savings Accounts would be diverting public school funds to non-public school purposes. The Court further determined that any such diversion of public school funds would harm public school students. Accordingly, since plaintiffs had established a likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable injury pending trial to plaintiff students, the Court issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the ESA law from going into effect.