Clarification on ESAs
For the past month, there has been much information released regarding Nevada’s education savings account program. As new updates come out, following changes to previously released information can be confusing. I hope this email will bring some clarity on the current status of the ESA program.
The Treasurer has implemented an early application period, which started August 3rd and will continue through November 30, 2015. The applications are here. Please make sure you sign, date, fill in all boxes and include all paperwork.
There are a few things you should know before sending in your early applications.
First, the 100 consecutive days of public school enrollment criteria must be met before submitting your application. Submitting an application prior to fulfilling 100 days in a public school will not serve as a place holder.
Next, once the Treasurer’s Office stamps your fully completed application “received,” the office will count backwards 100 consecutive school days, including school days in the 2014-15 school year. There will not be a one-time exception allowing attendance at any time during the 2014-15 school year. You must have been enrolled in a public school for the 100 consecutive school days immediately preceding the application.
The Treasurer has advised that if your child attends one day in a private school before this application is received by the office, he or she would no longer have 100 consecutive school days immediately preceding the date of the application. Thus, per SB302, your child would no longer be eligible to use any previous school days from the 2014-2015 school year.
As of this week, the Treasurer’s Office reports that it is taking two weeks to complete an application intake. Remember, you must be enrolled in your public school seat when the count begins — the application “received” date!
Additionally, the Treasurer asks that you include all paperwork with your application, including income verification when applicable and evidence for any 15 day absence waiver.
The 15 day absence rule resets the 100 day clock if a student has 15 consecutive school days absent during the 100 school days prior to application. If extenuating circumstances exist, like an illness, an accident, a death in family or disability issues, the Treasurer will review on a case-by-case basis. The absences may or may not be waived, depending on individual circumstances. Be sure to submit evidence of extenuating circumstances with the application.
At this time, the treasurer’s office expects funding will be distributed during the first week of April 2016. If funding begins sooner, parents will be notified at the email address they placed on the application. Don’t forget to put a valid email on each application.
Here is the schedule for next year’s open enrollment and corresponding funding dates:
Open Enrollment Periods for 2016 Estimated Account Funding Dates
January 4 – February 29, 2016 First week of April 2016
April 1 – May 31, 2016 First week of July 2016
July 1 – August 31, 2016 First week of October 2016
October 1 – November 30, 2016 First week of January 2017
Kindergarten and students under age 7 years
As of yet, there has been no official direction on eligibility for Kindergarteners or children under age 7. This is a question to be clarified through the regulatory process.
Some camps interpret SB302, the bill creating ESAs, to mean kindergartners are automatically eligible and do not need to meet the 100 day rule. Others interpret the bill to say no children under age 7 are eligible for ESAs. Still others interpret SB302 as saying kindergartners and other children under age 7 are eligible but must meet the 100 day enrollment criteria first.
Without clear direction, the Treasurer’s office has recommended parents submit an early application in any case. The applications will be placed into a pending status until the regulatory process has concluded. At which time, the applications will proceed according to final regulation. The safest thing to do is to make sure your child has 100 consecutive days in public schools, including charter and virtual public schools.
Online charter schools
Last week, the Treasurer’s Office released a notice from the Nevada Department of Education advising, “a private school or home school student may not participate in a program of distance education or online class to satisfy the 100 school day requirement.” Previously, the Treasurer stated that partial enrollment, one class or more, in an online school could be used to meet the 100 day rule. This inconsistency has many parents seeking clarification.
Current Nevada law doesn’t allow a private school or home schooled student to enroll part-time in an online school, so that will not an option to meet the 100 school-day enrollment requirement. However, partial enrollment, meaning taking one class or more, in a traditional or brick-and-mortar district or charter school will count towards the 100 day enrollment requirement.
Full-time enrollment in an online district or charter school will also satisfy the 100 day enrollment requirement.
It is important to note that eligibility through partial enrollment will result in a pro-rated funding allotment. For how long and at what rate is yet to be determined.
As evidenced by the Department of Education notice, it is important for families to understand Nevada’s ESA program is in a state of flux as it advances through the regulatory process. While the Treasurer is committed to proposing regulations, proposed regulations are online here, which are expansive and reflect legislative intent, things are subject to change until regulations have been adopted in final form by the Legislative Commission.
This is why it is important to have your voice heard at the upcoming August 21 Regulations Workshop at 9 a.m.:
Legislative Building Grant Sawyer State Office Building
Suite 4100 Suite 4401
401 S. Carson Street 555 E. Washington Avenue
Carson City, NV Las Vegas, NV
I hope this email helps bring some clarity and please let me know if you have any additional questions.