Parents, your voices really are making a difference!

Karen Gray

Good morning friends,

I know you’ve been waiting patiently for an update on last week’s special session and ESA funding. But right off, I want to let you know that Treasurer Schwartz and his team at Treasury have been completely occupied in advocating for the immediate funding of the ESA program. So, at this time, I don’t have any administrative updates on the program. As soon as I hear, I will walk you through any changes.

Friends, ESA is still very much alive and the topic of discussion and action in Carson City. In fact, this week I was contacted by the state’s telecom department because the governor’s office has been “inundated” with ESA phone calls.

I know you may feel defeated by all the attention given to the stadium. But what I hope you can take away from the stadium deal is that you can — and did — make a difference. Your voice did matter. It was heard and made a direct impact. ESA was sidelined, but you brought it back to the huddle. I know you’re tired and frustrated, but continued phone calls, emails, texts, tweets and Facebook posts are making a real difference.

Believe me when I tell you, your voices really are making a difference. It is imperative that Governor Sandoval and all Nevada lawmakers continue to hear from the public!

You can share your thoughts with Governor Sandoval, by email at, by phone at 775-684-5670 or 702-486-2500. Governor Sandoval can also be reached on  Facebook and Twitter at @GovSandoval. has posted the emails and social media contacts for Nevada lawmakers here. You can also find a directory and phone number for state Senators here and the Assembly Members here. Don’t forget to use the social media hashtags, #LetOurChildrenSucceed and #NVleg.

When last week’s special session began without ESA on agenda, many thought the program was sidelined until the 2017 legislative session. But then, your calls, your emails, your tweets, your Facebook posts and texts began to come in… and continued to come in… and continued… and continued. Not just to the Governor, but to every lawmaker in the Silver State. And, rising from the bench, ESA was soon back in play. And Nevada’s Assembly went into overtime fighting for ESA funding.

I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate the power of your voices than this midnight tweet during the marathon Assembly discussion on SB 1 (Raider stadium) last week. Yes, a gauntlet of paid lobbyists were in the hallways singing, “Are you ready for some football?”

But, in defense of your voices and the ESA program, enough Nevada lawmakers had hunkered down to cause a stalemate on the stadium bill.

Of course, ultimately the stadium bill passed without ESA funding. However, not until a timeout was called at 1:30 in the morning, and, as some lawmakers have reported, Sandoval’s team made some ESA promises. Accounts of the exact nature, details and politics of those promises vary. But the one constant is Sandoval’s commitment to the ESA program.

Now, I wish I could tell you Gov. Sandoval was going to champion that ESA funding tomorrow. I can’t.

But what I can tell you is that the discussion of funding ESA now is still very much alive. Everyone — from Sandoval to the ESA task force, from the attorney general’s office to the treasurer’s office to lawmakers — is looking at solutions.

And, I’m told there are possible solutions. They might not be final solutions. But, there are possible options to get the program up and running immediately.

So, here’s the bottom line:

Nevada has one of the worst public school systems in the country. Nevada also hails the #1, most expansive educational choice program in the country. Unfortunately, that program remains unfunded and the futures of 8,000 Nevada children hang in the balance of political chance.

While Governor Sandoval has promised to make ESA his priority and champion the cause in the next legislative session, the reality is, he cannot control the political make-up of the 2017 legislature.

ESA opponents are also focused on ESAs — to block funding and dismantle the program. If ESA does not secure a funding mechanism before Election Day, there’s a strong possibility the program could fall into a political black hole. Heck, the Raiders could play football in their new stadium before the nation’s #1 educational choice program receives a dime of funding.

Right now — today — Nevada’s ESA program has a team of champions: a governor committed to the program, a treasurer fighting around the clock for 8,000 kiddos who applied to the program, a victorious legal team in the attorney general’s office diligently sorting the legal avenues, an ESA task force of lawmakers working to coordinate solutions and the 2015 legislature that passed the program, all poised to fund it.

ESAs are still the talk of Carson City. Folks are still working to get the program started this school year. That effort, to succeed, needs the public’s continued support, strength — and fight!

Again, you can share your thoughts with the Governor and all the lawmakers at the contact information above!

I’m often asked, “What should I write or say?” In all honesty, I am uncomfortable telling anyone what to say. The message must come from your heart. For parents, there are as many reasons for ESA as the thousands of children in the applications.

If you’re a parent, simply introduce yourself and your child. Share a little something personal about yourselves and tell Sandoval and lawmakers why ESA is important to you and your child. Thank the official for their time and service. Then, plead for them to save your child from political chance and fund ESA now.

I’m also asked if it’s okay to express anger or frustration. Now, there might be some who disagree, but I think it is only fair to share with Governor Sandoval and lawmakers your true feelings whether that’s anger, frustration, exasperation or disappointment. Of course, there’s a mature way to do that without calling people names or being hateful. Remember, our elected officials, regardless of which side of ESA they are on, believe in what they are doing. They are real people too. And, sometimes, as I explained in a previous email, the only viewpoints they know are those of lobbyists and special interests. But when they hear from a motivated constituency it gives an issue real life perspective. Your voice has impact.

Basically, parents and community supporters can definitely have a big say in what happens.

Fight strong!