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October 19, 2018 Press Releases

Laxalt won’t “take no for an answer” on pushing Kochs’ anti-public school agenda


by Nevada Democrats

This week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt erased any doubt that he would “not take no for an answer” on taking tax dollars away from Nevada’s struggling public schools and using them to pay expensive private school tuition for the wealthy. This comes on top of Laxalt’s commitment to cutting hundreds of millions each biennium from Nevada’s public school budget, a main reason why Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval refused to endorse Laxalt, and may not even vote for him.

In yet another example of Laxalt using his office to push Koch network priorities and an anti-public school agenda, Laxalt played a key role in three of the most important cases affecting public schools in recent years, working with the Koch network in each case to undermine the public school system. One was defending Nevada's unconstitutional Education Savings Accounts law, and the other two were U.S. Supreme Court cases that started in other states, with Laxalt never publicizing his involvement of the state of Nevada.

The Kochs have spent at least $2.6 mil on Laxalt’s gubernatorial bid this year, more than they have spent on any other gubernatorial candidate.

The Nevada Independent: At forum, Laxalt, Roberson predict future of ESA school choice program in a Democrat-dominated Legislature

By Michelle Rindels

October 17, 2018

KEY POINTS

  • Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt argues that he has the tools to extract funding for the controversial Education Savings Accounts program from a Democratic-controlled Legislature because he was able to get bipartisan support for dealing with elder fraud and a backlog of untested rape kits.

  • But protecting seniors from scammers and preventing a backlog of rape kits — two issues on which there is no organized opposition, and the former of which is facilitated in large part by federal grant money — are likely to be far easier fights than the one waiting him over ESAs should he be elected governor. Republicans in the minority last session were unable to secure funding for ESAs, which allow parents to redirect the per-pupil state school funding allotment for their child to private school tuition or other education expenses, in spite of vowing not to support a budget and having a popular Republican governor on their side.

  • In the 2019 session, Democrats — who have been almost unanimous against ESAs — are expected to hold their majorities easily and could potentially have veto-proof majorities if they win key seats. That would further reduce a Republican governor’s leverage.

  • Republicans and Democrats ultimately agreed to a compromise in 2017 that included $20 million in one-time additional funding for Opportunity Scholarships, a tax credit-funded scholarship program that provides a limited number of low- and middle-income students with thousands of dollars each year to pay for private school tuition. No funding was allocated to ESAs, which have no limitations based on family income, and only one Democrat publicly supported the concept.

  • Critics say that the ESA program will divert scarce dollars from public schools, and have raised concerns that ESAs are available even to wealthy families who can afford private school tuition. Opponents also see ESAs as part of a broader movement to undermine the public education system to the benefit of private, for-profit operators that are not obligated to serve every student.

  • “In my opinion, until we fund public education the way that we should to be able to make a true assessment, we are doing a disservice to the greater masses by taking money away and sending it to private school, and certainly in a way that lacks accountability, lacks any conversation about need,” Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson told The Nevada Independent in May.

  • Laxalt’s Democratic opponent, Steve Sisolak, says on his website that he will “fight against the diversion of funding from public schools into private schools.”

  • Laxalt noted that his office, with the help of a renowned outside lawyer, defended the ESA program in court. The Nevada Supreme Court determined that the concept of ESAs passed constitutional muster on the point of separation of church and state, but the funding mechanism did not.

  • His office has also been quietly involved in a variety of other states’ fights over public funding for religious schools. He signed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in 2015 defending a Colorado voucher program, and led an amicus brief that same year siding with a Lutheran preschool in Missouri that sought state grant funding for its playground.

  • He said a governor could get results on the ESA front in spite of political opposition if they  “push and push and push and not take no for an answer.”

 

Read more: https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/at-forum-laxalt-roberson-predict-future-of-esa-school-choice-program-in-a-democrat-dominated-legislature

 

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