School Choice

Nevada Families Fight ACLU's Attempt to Destroy School Choice

Institute for Justice will help defend innovative education program.

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"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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