Lawsuit seeks to block Nevada school voucher petition campaign
FILE – A sign announces the closing of the Las Vegas Academy on July 22, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Two well-known senior officials of the Rogers Philanthropic Foundation — President Beverly Rogers and CEO Rory Reid — filed lawsuits on Tuesday seeking to stop the Education Freedom PAC from trying to collect the nearly 141,000 voter signatures needed to put two initiatives on the 2022 election.
A measure would amend the state constitution to create an “educational savings account” allowing students in kindergarten through 12 to attend schools “and educational programs other than public schools.”
The other would require state legislators to pass a good-type program with the same effect.
Education freedom officials, including its leader, Erin Phillips, did not immediately respond to messages on Thursday seeking comment on the legal challenge.
Phillips, co-founder and president of advocacy organization Power2Parent, told the Nevada Independent that litigation was expected of “those who want to protect the status quo” and would not stop her group’s efforts.
“We have confidence in the language and it’s clear that the people of Nevada are ready for a fundamental shift in our approach to education,” she said.
The legal challenges were filed in Carson City District Court against Republican Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. They are asking a judge to block the petition and proposed initiative as flawed and misleading.
“The description of the effect misleadingly fails to disclose that any funding earmarked for the contemplated program would inevitably … (lead to) a deterioration of the Nevada public school system,” a lawsuit said.
“Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about school choice, we’re talking about the school’s choice to reject students because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, religious affiliation…or because they need additional resources to be successful,” Rogers said. in a report. “We support public schools because they serve all students.”
Nevada’s K-12 schools have long been at or near the bottom of the national rankings in spending per student, class size, and student achievement. State lawmakers were told in March 2021 that it would cost about $800 million in new spending just to meet national student-teacher ratios.
The Las Vegas-based foundation was started by Jim Rogers, the former media mogul and University Chancellor of Nevada, and his wife, Beverly Rogers. He supports a political organization called Educate Nevada Now.
He said the initiatives could divert an additional $300 million a year from public schools to private schools, homeschooled parents or other expenses.
“Our public schools are grossly underfunded,” Reid said in the statement, “and this effort…will only make matters worse.”