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


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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

 

Judge issues temporary injunction against ESAs

Dear Friends,

It is with disappointment and shock that I write you this evening.

As you know, Nevada’s Education Savings Account program, the most expansive educational choice program in the country, has been facing several lawsuits. And in one of them, today, Judge James Wilson, Jr., the judge in the Lopez case filed in Carson City, issued a temporary injunction blocking the Nevada Treasurer from implementing the ESA program. In his ruling, Judge Wilson asserts that the program “violates Article 11, Section 3, Section 6.1 and Section 2 and that irreparable harm will result if an injunction is not entered.”

There is no easy way to say this, but, at least for the moment, this ruling freezes the ESA program.

A statement from Treasurer Schwartz is expected soon. I will keep you informed as details unfold.

Regretfully,

~Karen

 

Where I’ll be this year

Where I’ll be this year

Dear Friend,

For the last seven Januarys, I’ve come to work here at the Nevada Policy Research Institute looking forward to a new year and excited for the opportunities we have to advance freedom here in the Silver State. Getting to know and working with you — our supporters — to increase freedom is one of the best perks any job could offer. It’s something I thoroughly enjoy, and through victories and defeats, I’m grateful to be advancing freedom with you and our talented NPRI staff and board.

During that time, I’ve also been serving as a member of the Army National Guard, which I joined in 2007. Aside from being away for a couple weeks a year with my annual training, I’ve generally been able to keep the responsibility of these two jobs from interfering with each other.

Until now.

My unit, the 17th Sustainment Brigade, is deploying, and it’s my privilege to be going with them. That’s why, this January, I won’t be in our office. I’m currently at Fort Hood for a few weeks of training, and then we’ll be heading to Kuwait. The Las Vegas Review-Journal had a nice write up on our deployment ceremony, held earlier this week, if you want to read more.

The 17th Sustainment Brigade is a logistics headquarters, which means we ensure beans and bullets get to the warfighter. It’s an important mission, and I’m blessed to be going with some of Nevada’s finest soldiers and leaders. For those who are curious, I’m a staff sergeant, which means I’ll be working for a living. I’m also privileged to have the best job in the Army: public affairs.

I get to tell the stories of some of America’s finest men and women. We’re going to post the stories we produce on my unit’s Facebook page. If you’d like to follow our deployment and see these stories, I encourage you to like the page.

One of the things you learn in the Army is cadence or songs used to keep marching troops in step. My favorite goes like this:

Some say freedom is free

As for me, I disagree

I say freedom is won

By the barrel of a gun

It’s a poetic reminder that freedom is costly. And tens of thousands of Americans have paid the ultimate price for the freedom you and I enjoy.

To me, there’s always been an implied corollary to the acknowledgment that freedom isn’t free: Freedom isn’t inevitable.

As Ronald Reagan once noted, freedom isn’t passed down in our bloodstream, it must be preserved and passed down from one generation to the next. Our Constitution is one of the greatest political documents ever crafted, but the ideals and principles it embodies must be fought for — albeit with different tools than soldiers use — in our nation, state, and local governments on a daily basis.

The success of our military won’t be what prevents overreaching politicians from trying to grab your guns. It won’t be what prevents powerful special interests — be they union bosses or crony capitalists — from co-opting government’s power to advance their personal financial interests. It won’t be what prevents the nation’s chief executive from rewriting the law whenever Congress won’t implement one of his or her controversial ideas.

That’s up to you and us here at NPRI.

While I’m overseas, would you renew your commit to advance freedom here in Nevada? Certainly that will look different for everyone. Some of you may share an NPRI article with your circles of influence or contact an elected official. Some may share a conservative/libertarian book, like Bastiat’s The Law, with a child or friend. Some may continue or begin for the first time to financially support NPRI’s work. I do hope all of you will vote.

From ESAs to union-freedom campaigns, to analyses on proposed ballot initiatives, to our legal work, NPRI has planned an exciting 2016, and we’ve assembled a great team to carry it out. I’m actually jealous you’ll be here to see the results firsthand, and I’m confident in the ability of our team here at NPRI to get the job done. I even hope to write something occasionally, depending on my primary responsibilities.

When I return from this mission, aside from seeing my family what most excites me is the prospect of seeing what you and NPRI have accomplished in the meantime. And, of course, jumping back into the fray.

God bless.

Victor

 

A New Year: Let’s make the next 365 days as successful as the last

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.


The New Year is already here, and truthfully, I can’t help but feel optimistic as we move into 2016. Your support over the course of the last year has given us the resources to make incredible strides toward greater liberty in the Silver State. Our victories in 2015 were groundbreaking — often making national headlines and blazing new trails for the liberty movement.

Of course, that isn’t to say free market advocates didn’t have some setbacks.

On the one hand, lawmakers imposed the largest tax increase in state history on Nevadans, striking a blow to our hopes for fiscal responsibility from a new legislature. On the other hand, school choice became a reality — giving free-market advocates significant reason to celebrate.

It was probably this strange mix of victories and challenges that drove the demand for NPRI’s 2015 Legislative Review and Report Card. Grassroots activists, community organizations and even elected officials clamored to get their hands on our report — which rates lawmakers on their votes rather than their misleading campaign rhetoric.

Despite the tax hike — and the age-old tendency politicians have of breaking promises — it is hard for me to look back on the last year and not be proud of where Nevada is headed as a state. Improving the Silver State’s education system, by expanding school choice, has long been a goal for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, and in 2015, it finally became a reality. In fact, just this week regulations for the groundbreaking reform were approved by a Legislative Commission subcommittee — including an exemption for kindergarteners and military families from the requirement that students attend 100 days of public school before becoming eligible for ESAs.   

The most inclusive school-choice program in America is well on its way to full implementation, giving students unprecedented opportunities to make the most of their education. This is no small victory for advocates of free markets and individual liberty. In fact, our success in Nevada will set the stage for education reform throughout the rest of America.

Your support and enthusiasm over the last year enabled us to keep fighting for expanded liberty in this, and all, areas of public policy. And there’s plenty more to do in 2016. The gains we’ve made with ESAs will need to be defended and expanded, burdensome taxes will need to be fought against and crony deals between big-business billionaires and big government politicians will need to be exposed.

Yes, 2016 will be a challenging year. Judging by the progress we made in 2015, however, I’m confident that nothing is beyond our reach. I look forward to making the next 365 days just as groundbreaking and successful as the last.

And I look forward to doing so with your continued support.

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President


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

 

Subcommittee to Review Regulations approves ESA rules

Good afternoon,

I just wanted to give you a quick update on today’s Legislative Commission subcommittee meeting. The Subcommittee to Review Regulations approved Treasurer Schwartz’ ESA regulations. The regulations, including the kindergarten and military exemptions, are now official.

It was a four-to-three vote, with Senators James Settlemeyer and Pete Goicoechea, and Assemblymen Erven T. Nelson and Stephen H. Silberkraus voting to approve the regulations. Lawmakers voting against the regulations were Senator Aaron D. Ford, Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson and Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams.

Here’s what this means for Nevada families:

Children of active military parents stationed in Nevada

Children of active military parents stationed in Nevada are exempted from — and so do not need to meet — the 100-day public school enrollment requirement for the ESA program. Thus, for those qualifying military families who applied for the ESA during the early application period and were denied based on the 100-day requirement, there will be an appeal process through which your application can be reconsidered. You will have the opportunity to provide proof of military exemption. I’ll have more details on that process after the New Year weekend.

For those military families who did not apply during the early application period, you’ll be eligible to apply for the program beginning with the February-March registration period. Qualifying families will not need to meet the 100-day enrollment requirement to apply.

Families with children under the age of seven

For families with children under the age of seven, who applied during the early application period, your applications will be taken by the Treasurer’s office from the pending file and processed in accord with the newly approved regulations — no 100 day requirement.

Like active-duty military families, other households with children between five and seven years of age will be able to register for the ESA program beginning with the February-March registration period.

I will provide more specifics and details about these exemptions in the upcoming weeks.

As a reminder, the Treasurer’s office has asked early applicants with children seven years old and older, who have not received a notice on their program status by January 4, 2016 to contact the treasury office beginning Monday. Send inquiries to nevadaschoolchoice@nevadatreasurer.gov  

To expedite staff replies, you will need to provide the application ID in every communication with the office.

Remember: Wait until January 4th to contact the office if you have not received a notice and your child is over age seven.

Have a happy and safe New Year!

~Karen

 

ESA regulations are on the move again!

Good morning all,

ESA regulations are on the move again! As expected, the Legislative Commission's Subcommittee to Review Regulations will consider the ESA regulations this week— Wednesday, December 30 at 10 a.m.

The meeting will take place in Las Vegas at the following location:

Grant Sawyer State Office Building

Room 4401

555 East Washington Avenue

Las Vegas, Nevada

Some members of the commission may participate in Carson City, where the meeting will be video conferenced:

Legislative Building

Room 3137

401 South Carson Street

Carson City, Nevada

Members of the public are encouraged to attend and participate in the process at both locations.

Some important facts:

Of most significance, perhaps, is that this will be simply a yea or nay vote. The subcommittee will vote for or against approving the regulations adopted and submitted by Treasurer Schwartz. Those regulations include, among other things, the kindergarten and military exemption.  It is important to recognize that this subcommittee cannot amend, modify or revise the regulations in any way.  Thus, commission members are unable to exempt the 100-day enrollment requirement for private school or homeschool students, or any other student groups. Nor can the subcommittee pass the regulations only in part. It’s all or nothing— yea or nay.

Remember, the Treasurer’s proposed regulations will not become effective until and unless they’re approved by the Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Review Regulations.  So now, as always, it is important to share your position on important issues with lawmakers — whether by testimony in person (my preference), by written testimony or by a phone message.  Nevada’s ESAs still face controversy, so lawmakers need to know you support the ESA program and the regulations adopted by Treasurer Schwartz.

At Wednesday’s meeting, comments on the regulations will be taken during the open public comment period at the beginning of the meeting.  There will not be a separate public hearing for the regulations. Be sure to make your comments at the beginning of the meeting before commissioners vote.

If unable to attend, the meeting can be viewed online via the legislative website

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

~Karen

 

Nevada’s ESA regulations are taking the next step!

Happy Holidays!

Nevada’s ESA regulations are taking the next step!

Monday, the State Treasurer approved the regulations and sent the appropriate paperwork on to the Legislature for its approval. Those regulations did include the long-discussed under-age-7 and military-family exemptions. Now, we wait for the Legislative Commission meeting to complete the process and put the regulations into effect.

Treasurer Dan Schwartz is optimistic that lawmakers will approve the regulations before New Year’s Day, 2016 — which means parents need to be ready for the Legislative Commission meeting next week. There may only be a few days’ notice, so keep your eyes peeled.

While everyone is busy with holiday schedules and plans, if you can make time for this meeting, it could make an important difference for Nevada ESAs. Indeed, the public’s participation in the policy process is key to success on any issue. If lawmakers and others are to realize the vast public support for this program, they all need to hear your voice.

Registration is now open for Participating Entities

“Participating Entities” are the private schools, programs of distance education, Nevada colleges or universities, tutors and tutoring firms, etc., that will be accepting ESA money. The registration process for them is now open!

To get started, they should visit http://www.nevadatreasurer.gov/SchoolChoice/Vendors/EntityHome/ and click on the Entity Enrollment link.

Setting up of parents’ accounts

In the next few weeks parents will be contacted by the Treasurer’s office to set up their accounts. At that time, you will be able to choose your funding date and select the participating entity(s) (registered schools, tutors, etc.) that your child will utilize.

Parents will also be asked to register as participating entities. This is required in order for parents to be reimbursed for their later educational expenses — and whether their children will be educated at home or not.

More acceptances going out

Finally, acceptance notices are going out this week for families who’ve applied for an ESA for a child over the age of 7! And if you have not heard from the Treasurer’s office by January 4th, says Treasurer Schwartz, please send an email to nevadaschoolchoice@nevadatreasurer.gov so staff can check your application status. Remember, too, that to expedite a reply, parents will need to provide the application ID in every communication with the office.

Remember, wait until January 4th to contact the office if you have not received a notice and your child is over age 7.

I will keep you informed on the Legislative Commission meeting date and time. Until that time, enjoy the holidays!

Warmest wishes to you and your families.

~Karen

 

Give the gift of liberty this year!

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.


Thanks to your support, Nevada Policy Research Institute has been able to give the gift of greater freedom to countless Nevadans over the course of the last year. Your generosity has helped to both preserve and expand liberty and individual freedom during a time of increasingly intrusive government.

Some of the results have been truly amazing:

  • Nevada families have been given the gift of opportunity and choice with the passage of America’s most inclusive school choice program — providing thousands of struggling Nevadan students the opportunity to succeed by using Education Savings Accounts.
  • The gift of choice also went to countless Nevada teachers. Through NPRI’s widespread information campaign, teachers learned that they have the ability opt-out of their unions — saving those teachers nearly $800 per year in dues.
  • The gift of government transparency went to all Nevadans, via NPRI’s 2015 Nevada Legislative Session Review and Report Card — which tracks and scores lawmakers on their votes, rather than their misleading campaign rhetoric.

I hope that you are as proud of these accomplishments as am I. In the last year, because of your enthusiasm, we have been able to further the cause of limited government and individual liberty in the Silver State.

Please consider renewing your gift for liberty today, by making a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year. Your support will help ensure that the gift of freedom and liberty is everlasting for all Nevadans. I hope I can count on you as we approach the New Year.  

Thank you. Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President


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

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