The Hottest Ticket in Vegas — ESA’s on Trial

The hottest ticket in Vegas this Friday won’t be Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez or Penn & Teller. This Friday the Nevada Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a couple of lawsuits to decide whether the nation’s most sweeping school choice program will be allowed to serve families, or whether judges will intervene to say otherwise.

Can’t be in Vegas on July 29? The arguments will be streamed RIGHT HERE ON THIS PAGE. (No, that’s not a link — we literally mean the page you’re reading right now.)

The two cases will be heard in reverse order of their original filing. The first case, Lopez v. Schwartz, is considered the “financing” case. It claims that Nevada’s education savings accounts (ESAs), which put money in accounts that parents can control, would unconstitutionally “divert” funding that should be reserved for public schools. Further, the plaintiffs allege that such a reallocation would create a “non-uniform system of schools.” This part of the argument is built on two premises, first that the state’s traditional schools are somehow currently uniform, and second that this alleged disruption of uniformity, through different kinds of schools for different kinds of students, ought to be unconstitutional.

Nevada District Judge James Wilson, Jr., was sufficiently persuaded by the suit to grant an injunction in January, stopping the ESA program from moving forward until the legal challenges could be resolved. Oral arguments will begin on July 29 at 10amPDT/1pmEDT, and they’re scheduled to last for approximately one hour.

The second case, Duncan v. State of Nevada, was filed by the ACLU and the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. This suit alleges that ESAa violate separation of church and state provisions contained in the Nevada’s so-called Blaine Amendment which prohibits the use of state funds toward “sectarian” purposes. This argument is on appeal, having already been dismissed by a lower court judge. At the earlier trial, the state attorney general successfully defended the program before the lower court by arguing that ESAs don’t provide money directly to sectarian institutions, but to parents, who can then choose whether to allocate some of the funds to a religious school or not. (This lawsuit was the basis of a Choice Media, Bob Bowdon video commentary last fall.) Arguments for the appeal will begin on July 29 at 11:30amPDT/2:30pmEDT, and this case is also scheduled to last for about an hour.

While the Nevada Supreme Court normally holds oral arguments in the state capital of Carson City, the event has drawn so much interest, the venue for this event has been moved 7 hours southeast to Las Vegas, closer to most of the state’s population.

Anyone who plans to attend should know the title of this post is a bit misleading. There actually won’t be any tickets for the oral arguments — entry will be first come, first seated, at the Las Vegas Regional Justice Center, a government building with its own Yelp reviews. For everyone else who won’t be enjoying the triple digit temperatures of Vegas in July, however, Choice Media will be bringing you live video of the arguments, right on this page.

Bookmark this page, set your smartphone calendar and get some popcorn ready for the one Vegas show that could prove a template for educational freedom in all 50 states.

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