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Huge Victory for School Choice...but not in Nevada

A gaggle of school voucher-haters – led by the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona teachers union – filed a lawsuit challenging the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program. Among other things, the voucher haters maintained that the voucher program violated the state’s constitution since the vouchers could be used in religious schools.

Such constitutional prohibitions in state constitutions are generally known as “Blaine Amendments” – and Nevada has one, too. But the trial court “found the Religion Clause was not violated because the state ‘is not directing where monies are to go,’ so there ‘is no purpose by the State to directly benefit any religious school.’”

The school voucher haters appealed.

On October 1st the Arizona Court of Appeals struck a huge victory for school choice by soundly rejecting the appeal.

“The ESA is a system of private choice that does not have the effect of advancing religion,” Judge Jon W. Thompson wrote. “Where ESA funds are spent depends solely upon how parents choose to educate their children. Eligible school children may choose to remain in public school, attend a religious school, or a nonreligious private school. … We therefore concur with the trial court that the ESA does not violate the Religion Clause.”

AMEN!

Great for Arizona kids and parents, but yet another sad example of just how inconsequential the first term of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R&R-Partners) has been.

Much like the tax issue, Sandoval talked a good game on the campaign trail in 2010. He regularly and often expressed support for school vouchers and promised to pursue them. Then he got elected. And has done next to nothing.

Indeed in his first legislative session in 2011, instead of embracing then-Assemblyman Ed Goedhart’s comprehensive school voucher proposal — the Excellence in Education and Increased Opportunities Act (EIEIO), which was fully vetted for constitutionality as it relates to Nevada’s own Religion Clause – Sandoval instead put forward a needless bill to remove Nevada’s Blaine Amendment from the Constitution.

Worse, his bill never received a hearing, let alone a vote. Yet the governor didn’t raise a peep of protest.

Sandoval came back this year with a complicated and convoluted education tax credit bill — even though Nevada has neither a corporate or personal income tax that you could easily credit — rather than pursuing a true universal school voucher bill.

And once again the governor did virtually nothing with his gubernatorial soapbox or veto pen to insist on even this modest, pale imitation of school vouchers. As such, legislative Democrats deep-sixed the proposal and, again, never was heard a discouraged word from the governor.

Nevertheless, you can bet for the next year the Sandoval re-election campaign is gonna be telling us what a fantastic job he’s done for education. If only it were true.

(Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization. He can be reached at www.MuthsTruths.com)