Good Afternoon Friends!

Good Afternoon Friends,

Well, we’re halfway through February and what should have been the highest point — funding for educational options — in the nation’s most expansive educational choice program. Instead, the lives and futures of nearly 4000 children hang the balance while Nevada families anxiously wait to hear from the state supreme court.

Yesterday, there was a status check on discovery in the Duncan case, which is the lawsuit brought by the ACLU against the ESA program.  In that case, one obstacle was removed when the judge did not grant a hearing for a preliminary injunction, as one already exists. While it might not seem like a big deal because the program remains frozen, it means the Duncan court now can get on with proceedings and decide the case.

During the status check, the ACLU was given until February 19 to provide the court an outline of any remaining facts to be explored in their case.  Let’s just hope they don’t need to drag out the process with a bunch of depositions, interrogatories and other fishing expeditions.  The Institute for Justice — representing the intervening ESA parents — was given until February 26 to respond.  The IJ did not need more time for discovery.

In the Lopez case — the lawsuit with the injunction holding up the program — we are still waiting to hear from the Supreme Court on whether there will be an expedited hearing.  Both parties have agreed to one.

With all this waiting, I understand it can be frustrating and families may be thinking of giving up.  Please, hold strong! Yes, by all means, make the decisions best for your family and children. But, don’t give up on the program. Now more than ever, the program needs support and for families to rally.  

Since the beginning of 2016, we have signed up approximately 100 new families to this e-list because of all of your hard work rallying behind ESAs. Please, keep spreading the word. And, as always, I am happy to come speak and help with applications in your churches, schools, civic groups, places of business, sport practices, homes— anywhere we can share the word of ESA. I’m happy to answer any questions. Be sure to reach out.

Other initiatives NPRI has rolled out: A petition from parents urging lawmakers to defend, protect and advance the ESA program.  Be sure to sign the petition at NevadaESA.com and share it on Facebook.  We have also started a social-media campaign #LetOurChildrenSucceed. Use the hashtag in all your social-media conversations about ESAs or education in general. 

And, please, please continue to send in your stories about why ESAs are the choice for your child and how this injunction is affecting your family and your children. This program should not be about politics. At stake are the real futures of real children. There cannot be too many stories. For every application there is a child, and we want to bring that fact to light.

February also marks the first open-enrollment period of 2016.  While the Treasurer cannot process any applications at this time, the office is accepting them.  If you meet the eligibility requirement of 100 days in a public school, and were contemplating the program, be sure to submit your application. When submitting your applications, be sure to mail them certified with a return receipt in order to verify the application made it to the office. If you hand them in, ask for a receipt or something to verify receipt.  And, be sure to post a comment on #LetOurChildrenSucceed!

Happy birthday to all our presidents!  Enjoy your weekend!

~Karen

 

Let’s make Nevada the nation’s leader in education!

 

Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


 

I’m thrilled to say that last month’s school choice rally held in Las Vegas was a great success. As part of National School Choice Week, thousands of Nevada parents, students and educators rallied around the concept of choice in education.

Clearly, it is a cause that is close to the hearts of parents of all backgrounds, politics and demographics.

Nationally, there was over 16,700 events held in celebration of choice in education. Thirty-three governors, including Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, issued proclamations officially recognizing Jan. 24-30 as School Choice Week. Even the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to recognize the last week in January as National School Choice Week.

But that doesn’t mean proponents of educational choice are finished. In fact, in the last week, the momentum from January’s event has been growing.

Early next week, Pastor Ron Thomas with the Reconciliation Apostolic Ministries will be coming out in support of Nevada’s Education Savings Accounts at an event designed to let his Westside community ask questions about the new reform.

Ron Thomas has been a pastor for 20 years, and is even an officer with the Las Vegas chapter of the NAACP. While the NAACP has not come out in support of ESAs, Pastor Ron told us that he believed in educational choice too strongly to remain quiet.

That’s why he’s hosting an event — with Sen. Scott Hammond, the author of SB302 — to let his flock and his neighborhood know about the opportunities available to them through ESAs. The Educational Choice Open House will be held Tuesday evening at 6:00 p.m., at the Reconciliation Apostolic Ministries.

Pastor Ron’s passion for improving the lives of struggling students is inspiring. And Pastor Ron isn’t alone.

All over the state, ESAs have earned the support from parents and educators with wide and diverse backgrounds. Educational choice is gaining momentum and attracting parents, leaders and educators who are eager to put aside partisan politics. ESAs, because they empower families rather than political special interests, are quickly gaining momentum.

As Pastor Ron said, education should be about children — not politics.

And that’s why it is so important that we protect this reform.

Opponents of choice in education are hoping the rest of us give up, or quiet down. Parents, however, are doing nothing of the sort. Hundreds of parents have already signed the petition on NevadaESA.com to protect the nation’s most inclusive educational choice program, and we need more in the coming weeks.

Take a couple minutes to sign the petition to protect Nevada’s ESAs, and help make the Silver State the national leader for substantive education reform.

School Choice Week might be over, but the momentum for real change in education is forever ongoing.

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President


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What’s going on with Nevada’s ESA program?

Tomorrow marks the end of National School Choice Week 2016. And, while Nevada celebrated school-choice this week like it was 1999, the reality is there’s much hanging in the balance— the future of more than 4000 Nevada children.

Today, the question on everyone’s mind is: what’s going on with Nevada’s ESA program?

Well, we’re not yet over the hump on the legal front. There is still a court injunction freezing the program, which means the Treasurer’s office has halted all application processing, funding, and other program initiatives. So, if you are waiting for a notice about your application, it is on hold. No notices are going out. Early applications in the kindergarten pending file, are, well, still pending. They will not be processed until further notice.

However, there has been some movement in the case since early January. An appeal has been filed with the Nevada Supreme Court, seeking to have the injunction lifted. The State of Nevada has also officially asked for the case to be expedited. The estimates to have a decision still range between a “few weeks” and “several months.” But, we will have a better feel for what that actually means once the appeal proceedings get off the ground.

Many of you have been writing and calling to ask if there will be an enrollment in February. Unfortunately, the Treasurer is unable to open enrollment and process applications at this time. However, a revised PDF application has been posted on the treasurer’s website. And while the office cannot process applications, they have said they will set aside, for future processing, any application received.

For what it’s worth, I would suggest waiting until at least February 1st if you are hankering to submit an application, and do so only by certified return-receipt mail.  

As a few words of encouragement, the Treasurer’s office has said that once the injunction is lifted, they are ready to pick up right where they left off.

Also, the Treasurer has released the parent and participating entity handbooks — which, hopefully, will help answer some of your questions. A lot of information is in these handbooks, so I’d recommend parents and participating entities read up while we wait.

In the meantime, I suggest you check out the petition to save ESAs on NevadaESA.com! Since it was launched on Tuesday, hundreds of supporters have already signed it. If we’re serious about saving ESAs, we have to show Nevada’s public officials that this is a reform Nevada parents demand. Sign the petition, and share it with your friends, family and coworkers. 

Again, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out and I’ll work on tracking down the answers.

~Karen

 

What an incredible week for school choice!

Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


What an incredible week for school choice!

Over 2,000 students, parents and educators showed up to a rally supporting school choice on Tuesday, underscoring the fact that parents in the Silver State are hungry for education reform.

I was so pleased to see the support and enthusiasm that parents and serious educators have for the cause of greater freedom and improved education for Nevada’s future generations. The state’s Education Savings Accounts might still be on hold, thanks to an injunction issued earlier this month, but the support for choice in education is clearly on the rise.

As national trailblazers for educational reform, we advocates for Nevada’s ESAs have a lot of work cut out for us in 2016. The overwhelming support I receive on a daily basis for the nation’s most inclusive school choice program, however, gives me confidence that our efforts to provide children with expanded opportunity will be a great success.

After all, choice in education isn’t about teacher unions, or public schools or special interests — it is about empowering students, parents and educators.

Ultimately, parents of all political persuasions want our children to succeed. School choice, at its core, is focused on giving our children the resources necessary to tap into opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach. By giving concerned parents control over their children’s education, and by freeing families from the monopoly of failing government schools, we can democratize opportunity for children throughout the Silver State.

And that’s what this last week — National School Choice Week — was all about. It was a celebration of education reform that focused on families rather than educational bureaucracies. That, more than anything, explains the broad support pro-choice reforms have received — not just in Nevada, but nationwide.

On Tuesday, during the school choice rally, we launched an online petition in which parents can show support for Nevada’s Education Savings Accounts. So far, the results have been impressive. Within just a few days, more than 400 people have signed, and shared, the petition to save Nevada’s ESAs.

I strongly encourage you to take just a couple of minutes and do the same, by visiting NevadaESA.com/LetOurChildrenSucceed.

I’m anxious to see what comes next in the fight to save Nevada’s innovative education reform. Judging by the excitement we’ve seen in the last week for school choice, I think good things are in store for Nevada’s younger generations.

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President


Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.

 

Happy School Choice Week!

Happy School Choice Week!

Wow, what an event!  If you missed the school-choice week event at Cashman Theatre Tuesday, you missed the kickin-est party in the nation. See some pictures from the event here. I’m thinking, though, with the overflow event we had, none of you missed it.  But, just in case you were in the minority Tuesday, be sure to join us and more than 2,000 of our closest friends again next year.

I had a blast serving on the event organizing team with Elissa Wahl from RISE Resource Center, event coordinator extraordinaire; Juan Martinez, from LIBRE Institute, a real bus wrangler; Katy Foley from Academica, the true usher queen; and all the National School Choice Week folks. I look forward to next year’s event!

I want to thank all the volunteers who helped make Tuesday’s event such a success.  There is NO WAY we could have pulled it off without all of you!  And here’s a personal shout out to NevadaESA.com volunteers: Jenny, Tiecha and Becky from the parent group ACE, you ladies are the most amazing women, doing great things for the right reasons— parents and children. It’s an honor to partner with you.  Rachel, Eida, Christina and Darnell, you are so very appreciated. I could never convey enough how much your support means to me personally, and to the success of Nevada’s ESA. You are rock stars!   Lara and Connie from JOY School and Kimberly from International Christian Academy you are always there to lend a hand, promote the ESA program and help parents. Your dedication is above and beyond. It’s an honor to work with you, always.  And to Kelly from Word of Life School, thank you for just grabbing me in the hallway, seeing the need and taking a moment to pray over me.  I truly felt the calm!

And to Bonnie and Rita, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your stories Tuesday. You and your families have a special place in my heart, always. Thank you for trusting me and NPRI to guide you through this process.  And, thank you for speaking at Tuesday’s event. You are the face of so many Nevada families.

While I was busy organizing and running around at Tuesday’s event, our team here at NPRI was busy working for Nevada parents and families.  Just in case you missed it, NevadaESA.com launched a petition to urge lawmakers to defend and expand ESAs earlier this week.  Be sure to sign the petition so lawmakers can see how much this opportunity is supported by parents and tax payers. 

Also, make your voices heard by participating in the #LetOurChildrenSucceed social-media campaign.  I’ve posted my hashtags. If I can do it — and believe me, I’m a social-media illiterate — I know you all can.  Let your voices be heard and put a face to those 4000 applications! #LetOurChildrenSucceed

To everyone I owe a phone call or email, thank you for your patience over this past week. I am returning your calls and emails now. Feel free to reach again!

Remember, please send me your ESA family stories.  ESA is not a mere “cause” or “political issue.”  It is families.  It is real people. It is the real future of real children. ESAs benefit real lives of real children— your children. 

ESA update coming next…

Staying strong!

~Karen

 

School Choice Week shows why we should be optimistic

Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


It’s been another week of uncertainty for the thousands of families that are depending on Education Savings Accounts for a better education. With the injunction against ESAs still in place, implementation of the nation’s most inclusive school choice program will remain on hold — and the consequences are hurting real people.

 Dr. DaJuane Anderson and his wife, Dr. Tamara Anderson, are feeling the uncertainty that Judge Wilson’s injunction has inflicted on the state in a very personal way.

It has been their dream for nearly a decade to help students who are struggling in underperforming schools. Having created a private school to cater specifically to low-income families, the Andersons saw the ESAs as a necessary step in helping disenfranchised communities.

But now — like thousands of other Nevadans — they are watching and waiting to see if the courts will allow them to move forward with their dream.  

Rita Colon, a single mother who took advantage of ESAs and Tax Scholarships to improve her child’s education, thought Nevada’s new school choice was an answer to a prayer.

Unable to afford alternatives to public school, Rita’s daughter had struggled to survive in the failing system. When she enrolled for an ESA, everything changed. Suddenly she could afford to send her daughter to one of the best schools in the area.

School choice, to Rita, isn’t some obscure policy proposal — it is the key to giving her daughter a brighter future.  

For the families impacted by ESAs, education reform is personal.

As I talk to parents like Rita, and educators like Dr. Anderson, I realize that advocates of school choice are diverse, numerous and passionate.

And next week, that passion will be on full display.

January 24-30 is officially National School Choice Week, and the grassroots support for education reform is almost overwhelming. Across the nation more than 16,000 events, rallies and demonstrations will be held by proponents of school choice. In southern Nevada, thousands of parents and students are expected to show up at the Cashman center in Las Vegas.

The rally will be held at 10:00 am on Tuesday, January 26th, 2016. Public officials, parents and educators will speak about the role choice plays in improving education.

The crowd will be impressive, and the message it sends to Nevada’s leaders will be potent.  

I am optimistic that Rita’s daughter will be able to attend the school she wants, that the Andersons will be able to give the gift of quality education to low-income students, and that school choice will survive in Nevada.

With so many Nevadans passionate about improving their children’s education, it is hard not to be optimistic about the future of ESAs.

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President


Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.

 

ESA update

Good afternoon ESA friends,

Since I last wrote, there’s been a development in the Lopez case — the case that paused the ESA program. Late last Friday, Attorney General Adam Laxalt filed a Notice of Appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court.

The next step will be a Docketing Statement that will be filed with the Supreme Court. That statement’s purpose, among other things, is to assist the Supreme Court in identifying issues on appeal, scheduling cases for oral argument and settlement conferences, and classifying cases for expedited treatment.

After receiving the docketing statement, the Supreme Court will set a briefing schedule. Then, after the argument phase, the Court will consider the arguments, do its research, and issue an opinion.

How long will all this take?

That remains to be seen. I’ve spoken with a few lawyers and have been told it could take anywhere from a “few weeks” to “several months.” What that means in real time is unclear — because it depends on whether or not the Supremes expedite the case.

AG Laxalt — diligently working to assure parents of the genuine educational choice envisioned by lawmakers — said last week that his office “will seek an expedited ruling to ensure that thousands of Nevada families receive the clarity they need as soon as possible.”

I will be sure to keep you up to date as things progress.

ESAs continue to be attacked by the special interests fighting to keep control over your child’s education. So it’s important that your voices, and the voices of all families who want this program, need to be heard. Many parents and others in the community still don’t understand the program or what it offers them.

Opponents want nothing more than for ESA supporters to go inactive while the issues are fought in court. They want nothing more than families to become discouraged, fearful — and give up.

But we at NPRI are not giving up. Nor are we pausing. We are forging full-steam ahead — increasing awareness, advancing public policy and getting your voices heard.

Check out, for example, the story on the front page of NPRI’s Nevada Journal.

To tell more of your stories, we need your help.

There are so many more faces, futures and lives depending on ESA. So, I’m asking again, please, take a moment to put a few paragraphs — or a lot — together and share your ESA story. Email them to me.

We want to know you. We want to share with everyone the Nevadans who dearly want the opportunity that the ESAs can bring them and their children.

And, if you are up for a good school choice rally, be sure to come to Cashman Field Theatre next Tuesday, January 26, for the National School Choice Week event from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. You’ll hear from other families and children who are themselves using and benefitting from school choice.

There’s to be school performances and a special school choice week dance. Senator Hammond, sponsor of SB 302 and Grant Hewitt, chief of staff for the Nevada Treasurer are also scheduled speakers.

Stay strong!

~Karen

 

A temporary injunction won’t kill education reform

Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


When Judge James Wilson granted an injunction against Education Savings Accounts on Monday, school choice opponents were overjoyed.

Thousands of Nevadan families who were depending on ESAs to improve their children’s lives, however, were devastated by the decision. For advocates of education reform, the temporary pause in the nation’s most inclusive school choice program demonstrates that we have a lot of work ahead of us in 2016.

Opponents of school choice claim ESAs are unconstitutional because they will “bankrupt” public schools, and destroy public education — but nothing could be further from the truth. As NPRI has explained before, ESAs are structured in such a way that public schools are poised to benefit from the reform.

Students who enroll in ESAs will see educational opportunities that had previously been out of reach, and public school students will benefit from smaller classrooms, more per-student resources and a more competitive climate for educational innovation.

After all, public education shouldn’t be about how much money taxpayers can funnel into a bureaucratic government monopoly that fails students and their parents. For decades, the current government-run public school system has failed to prepare our children for success. As taxpayers, parents and educators too, we deserve better.

At the heart of school choice is a fundamental belief in freedom itself. And more than anything else, that explains why anti-choice activists are so worried about the success of Nevada’s education reform. Defenders of the status quo fear the progress that will be made when parents — not bureaucrats — are put in charge of their child’s educational future.  

It’s a fundamental belief in individual opportunity that made school choice a reality in the Silver State, and that same belief is what will keep it alive. Judge Wilson’s injunction against ESAs won’t derail support for reform in Nevada — it will strengthen it.

In the year ahead, I know that school choice advocates will be working tirelessly alongside NPRI to strengthen and defend the nation’s most impressive and inclusive education reform program.

I’m looking forward to our success.

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President


Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.

 

ESA update

Good afternoon, all —

Let me start by thanking everyone who has emailed and called with their support, prayers and words of encouragement after Monday’s ruling in the Lopez case. I can’t begin to explain how much your emails and calls have helped me through this week. Your positive outlook and continued commitment to the program’s success inspires me.

The entire team at NPRI truly feels your disappointment, desire for a successful ESA program and sense of limbo. For all of us, too, Nevada’s ESA program is about Nevada families and children — our families, our community, our kiddos.

When this decision came down, we immediately hit the meeting room to identify courses of action and ways to empower parents in this process. Please, be sure to have everyone you know sign up on NevadaESA.com. New things will be coming forward soon, I promise.

It’s a hard moment, I know — not what any one of us wanted. And, even I have to dig deep some days. But, for this immediate moment, we must be patient and stay strong while Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Treasurer Dan Schwartz determine the exact steps to take after Monday’s ruling.

While to us the next step may seem simple — appeal the injunction — the reality is that many options and paths need to be considered. There are also risks that must be weighed. Unavoidably, this will take some time. The State is considering all options — both in court and out of court. Remember, ultimately, the goal is the survival and long-term success of the program.

So, hang in there! I’ve been told we may hear something in about a week.

In the meantime, one development is that an emergency appeal has been filed to allow the Institute for Justice to intervene in support of the program and on behalf of Nevada parents who are directly depending on the ESA.

Another is that Judge Wilson has ordered the parties to the lawsuit to arrange with the court's judicial assistant, by this Monday, January 18, a hearing to set the details for a trial.

Many of you have been reaching out to the Treasurer’s office with questions. Unfortunately, staff there lacks answers yet. They’re working closely with the attorney general to determine what they can and cannot do. And rightfully so: Until the injunction order is clarified, Treasurer Schwartz and his staff need to proceed with an abundance of caution.

While office staffers are begging to answer your emails and phone calls, they also don’t want to put any part of the program at risk. So don’t be discouraged or too frustrated when you don’t hear back. It’s a delicate situation. In the meantime, I’m happy to log your questions and your contact info. Shoot me an email anytime.

Right now, there are simply no answers to questions like, “Will my early application still be processed? Will enrollment still take place in February?” But when there are, we will let you know ASAP!

In closing, I just want to thank everyone again for their words of support and encouragement. You have responded to this most unfortunate setback with dignity and grace. It is my pleasure to work for each and every one of you.

As I said, you inspire me!

Best,

~Karen

 

Stay strong

Good afternoon, Friends,

I know that yesterday’s court ruling in the Lopez complaint was a sad turn of events. This whole process has been a roller coaster. But then, most things great and groundbreaking must be hard-fought — and often they turn out to be better and stronger in the end. 

So please, hold strong.

The team of experts and public officials fighting for Nevada children and your families are the best of the best.  The legal team is preparing to file an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court. The Treasurer’s office is researching what the next steps are for the program, administratively.  It may be a few weeks until we have good solid information.  Let’s give the experts the time they need to sort through the details.

As events and information unfolds, I will let you know. 

Many of you have asked, “What can I do to help?”  At this time, the best thing you can do to help, is focus on the positive (ESAs did prevail on two issues) and give the experts some time to process yesterday’s decision.  But that doesn’t mean parents and community members have to be idle. Building a strong base of program supporters and advocates will be critical for our future victories.

If you have not already done so, get on the NevadaESA.com email list (this email list).  Tell your family and friends to sign up on the list.  We will not only keep you informed, but will, when the need arises, connect people and help them mobilize.

Additionally, if you are a Facebook person, join ACE of Nevada. ACE is a parent group, partnered with NevadaESA.com and committed to the success of Nevada’s ESA program. These young ladies traversed the legislative halls and political meets as SB302 went from being a bill to becoming law. They are committed to educational choice in Nevada — and whatever that looks like for each family and each child.

The perspectives that parents provide in this group are immeasurably valuable. The posts are informative to those of us on the ground, such as myself.  And, I’m always happy to jump in with an answer when called upon!

Let’s be strong, positive and committed. And, for the moment, let’s give the experts the elbow room they need while processing this unfortunate ruling.

As always, give me a call or send me an email.  I will get back to you.

Best of hope!

~Karen

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