School voucher amendment

Geoffrey Lawrence

Last night, testimony was heard by the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections on SJR10, a resolution that would amend the Nevada Constitution to allow for public education vouchers. The hearing drew a large crowd, particularly in Las Vegas where a roomful of students and parents showed up to support the resolution. The R-J’s Doug McMurdo covered the hearing here.

SJR10 would not immediately institute a public school voucher program. However, it would allow the legislature to create one in the future by eliminating current constitutional barriers, as embodied in the so-called “Blaine Amendment.” In addition to drawing the support of lawmakers, the resolution would need to draw majority support from the general electorate in two consecutive elections in order to change the constitution.

While this is an aggressive approach, a constitutional amendment is not necessary to increase school choice options. There are a plethora of alternatives to outright vouchers that would not be inhibited by the Blaine Amendment. One such alternative, a tuition tax credit program similar to Florida’s Step Up for Students program, has been modeled by the Nevada Policy Research Institute. The program would save roughly $1 billion over its first 10 years while dramatically increasing school choice and, consequently, student achievement.

Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.