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Nevada Families Fight ACLU's Attempt to Destroy School Choice

Institute for Justice will help defend innovative education program.

"There is no one size fits all approach to education," says Melanie Hildreth, director of development at the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm based in Virginia. "Parents are in the best position to make choices for their own children."

In September, five Nevada families partnered with the Institute for Justice to defend the constitutionality of the state’s innovative Education Savings Account program. The program, which goes into effect in 2016, would give families with children in grades K-12 the choice to opt out of the public school system and receive a flexible scholarship to use on a multitude of educational services—ranging from private school tuition to books, tutoring, and other educational needs. 

"This [program] gives parents the ability to customize their childrens’ education by spending their dollars on a variety of educational goods and services," states Hildreth. 

The new law is being challenged by the Nevada branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Educate Nevada Now! (ENN), an education reform campaign funded by The Rogers Foundation. The groups argue that the program violates the separation between church and state because parents could use public money for private religious schools.  

Hildreth argues that the Nevada program does not unconstitutionally fund religion because it provides a variety of school options that are both religious and non-religious and "relies on the free and independent choice among parents."

The Institute for Justice has successfully defended school choice programs in six states over the last five years. 

Nick Gillespie sat down with Hildreth to discuss the upcoming case at the 2015 State Policy Network annual meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  

Approximately 7 minutes.

Produced by Alexis Garcia and Meredith Bragg. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Camera by Garcia and Bragg. Music by Bird Creek. Additional footage from the Institute for Justice

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  • Cytotoxic||

    There can be no doubt: the ACLU is an enemy of liberty.

  • contrarian||

    That seems like an exaggeration. Why do you say that?

  • jalank||

    Bit of an exaggeration, but if we accept (which I assume ACLU does) the gov't stealing money from everybody (regardless of religion), then distributing it for supposed education, then wouldn't it make sense to allow the recipients of the money to be at liberty to use it where they want? The ACLU is fundamentally protecting people in power because of their irrational fear of "religion." The entire public education monster worships at the altar of the state!

  • MarkLastname||

    You're thinking about it all wrong. It's not that they make you pay them 40% of your money; it's that they let you keep 60% of yours (for now), and that's mighty generous of them. You didn't build that. It doesn't belong to you, it belongs to the People, and you should just be grateful what of it the People's vicars let you keep!

  • jalank||

    None.

  • RealCrankyYankee||

    I don't see the ACLU's logic. As Hildreth indicates, the scholarship is awarded to the parents who opt out of their shitty school system and then decide where to spend their education dollars.
    The fact that ACLU doesn't like parochial schools getting any of the parent's scholarship money just sounds ant-religious (and I say this as an atheist).

  • Paul.||

    The ACLU has interpreted the Sep. of Church and State largely incorrectly- believing that it was a provision to protect government from religion, whereas it was actually the opposite.

  • MJBinAL||

    The ACLU believes not in freedom OF religion, but rather in the freedom FROM religion. It is not that the state can't favor a particular religion or another, or even the lack, but rather that the state must oppose all religion.

    It is not really a constitutional position so much as a progressive/socialist one. The state must eradicate religions so that the state is unopposed.

  • buybuydandavis||

    So that the Progressive Theocracy is unopposed.

  • contrarian||

    This has nothing to do with separation of church and state, that reasoning is patently absurd. My guess is the ACLU's angle is that the tax dollars that wealthy people used to pay into public schools while sending their kids to private schools will disappear, and wealthy people will disproportionately opt out of the public school system after the measure takes effect. Of course there are a number of reasons why this won't be a problem.

  • contrarian||

    Basically I think they're worrying about this destroying whatever redistributive element of public education there is.

  • venerabilis||

    Do you think this is as simple as some Nevada ACLU attorney is married to a teacher and he is worried her worthless lazy ass will be unemployed and always home to nag him?

    Yes I acknowledge this is a patriarchal comment and I stand by it as most public school teachers I have met are both Female and Lazy, I can not call them stupid they have at least the same level of function as a digital recorder in that they were able to memorize and regurgitate enough information to get their teaching credentials, and like a digital recorder they make about the same use of that information.

  • ||

    Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
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  • Sir Chips Alot||

    how about the government does not take any of my money _and_ lets me choose where to send my kids? problem solved.

  • Sir Chips Alot||

    how about the government does not take any of my money _and_ lets me choose where to send my kids? problem solved.

  • MarkLastname||

    Because anybody who thinks like that is an idiot who can't be trusted to make their own decisions; and if you were smart, you would already be letting them make your decisions for you and so we wouldn't be having this discussion.

  • Sir Chips Alot||

    why the fuck does this site double and sometimes triple post me?

  • Paul.||

    That question has been asked many times.

  • SIV||

    Arboreal rodents

  • DarrenM||

    It must like you.

  • Sir Chips Alot||

    why the fuck does this site double and sometimes triple post me?

  • ||

    Maybe the squirrels think what you said is worth repeating ?

  • DenverJ||

    The first amendment doesn't say "separation of church and state." It says"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; "
    "Separation of church and state" is from a speech that Jefferson gave, and he was just an old white heteronormative slave owner, so who cares what he thought?"

  • Radioactive||

    moar GOOOODZ

  • lap83||

    Even a racist clock is right once in awhile

  • DesigNate||

    Yeah, but without SoCaS there would be a Christian Jihadist in every classroom, waiting to turn our children into little soldiers of Christ.

  • venerabilis||

    not that I agree with the ownership of slaves but most people are of the same mind as a well kept slave.

    look at the average human regardless of their upbringing , you could take just about everything from them by force of law and as long as they have a six pack in the fridge, a weekly reality show and some form of national sports league they will never give it a second thought.

    Really would it be all that bad to put them in chains and do something useful with them maybe not permanently but a few years or so, hell it may even encourage them to be more active in society lest it happen a second time. It could be a bloodless way to water the tree of liberty.

  • dantheserene||

    The whole religion angle is a red herring. They want people to pay for public schools and have their children properly indoctrinated, not do whatever they want with their children or their money.

  • chmercier||

    This, basically.

    Wonder if the Nevada ACLU has a bunch of state or teacher's union money to hold it up? Could be a case of soft blackmail.

  • Stretchy||

    We can get rid of welfare because, welfare recipients might give some of that money to their church. Ditto Social Security. Medicare/Medicaid might be spent at a Catholic hospital. Federal payroll might be donated to a religious group.

    Budget... balanced.

  • block30||

    Well said, Stretchy. Promoter of "Civil Liberties" my ass.

  • ace_m82||

    Also, gonna have to get rid of "defense" spending too...

  • buybuydandavis||

    "The groups argue that the program violates the separation between church and state because parents could use public money for private religious schools. "

    Such bullshit. I'm a rabid, fanatical atheist, and even I think this is bullshit.

    Religious people should have the same right to send their children to a school supporting their values as the progressives already have in the government mandated Progressive Theocracy schools.

    Separation of Church and State does *not* mean making the religious second class citizens. They should have the same rights as anyone else.

  • PersephoneK||

    Totally agree. The public schools basically preach the religion of statism.

  • PersephoneK||

    Totally agree. The public schools basically preach the religion of statism.

  • PersephoneK||

    This is potentially a huge case... Its not just about education, but about the interpretation of the first amendment. I'm a pro-liberty atheist, and I couldn't give a rats tiny ass if parents choose to send their kids to a religious, or any other school. The only prohibition I'd put on parents using public dollars (assuming those dollars can be given to all kids) is that the school does not directly advocate violence (like jihad, etc). Short of that, let the marketplace of ideas win out, even if that means I have to work extra hard as an atheist to convince people to give up their superstitions and support reason.

  • Fairbanks||

    When does the ACLU file a lawsuit challenging the GI Bill? That's a much bigger school voucher program. And what about the earned income tax credit? Those government-provided dollars can be used at ANY religious organization, not just schools.

  • heart_of_flint||

    The ACLU is in danger of being co-opted by progressives who prefer their political beliefs to principled defense of civil liberties.

  • MarkLastname||

    In danger? Ship has sailed methinks.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Methinks you're right on the money.

  • MarkLastname||

    So, let's get this straight:
    publicly funding schools irrespective of their affiliation violates separation of church and state
    Outright refusing schools of certain (defined as 'religious', which is a legally arbitrary category) affiliations because of their affiliations isn't?

    Does this mean that the government must only hire nonreligious people, as otherwise they are violating separation of church and state? More importantly, did the ACLU decide that they were only going to keep the term 'civil liberties' in their name as a inside joke?

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Ooh, heresy! Thou shalt not speak ill of the ACLU!

  • Glide||

    By that twisted logic, the First Amendment should also make tax-exempt status for churches unconstitutional. It's really the same thing...the government giving you a little bit of your own money back with the freedom to possibly give it to religious folks, or to equally deserving nonreligious folks.

    Granted, if banning Christian nonprofits was actually on the table, there is a nonnegligible chance the current incarnation of the ACLU would be leading the charge.

  • ||

    Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do...... ✹✹✹✹✹✹ www.buzznews99.com

  • tbeard524||

    I bought brand new BMW by working ONline work. Six month ago i hear from my friend that she is working some online job and making more then 98$/hr i can't beleive. But when i start this job i have to beleived her
    Now i am also making 98$/hr if you want to try just check this out

    -------------- www.HomeJobs90.Com

  • Edwin||

    so, I had heard of Neveada's ESA;s, but then I watched this video, and they're saying it's basically A SCHOOL VOUCHER THAT HAS ACTUALLY PASSED AND IS THE LAW OF THE LAND OF AN ENTIRE STATE

    HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT

    Why the hell didn't you guys tell anybldy about this? Why the hell aren't we celebrting this more and poushing it more in other states? This is a HUGE deal!

    Holy shit, it looks like I have to move to Nevada

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