Las Vegas, NV - Bev Rogers and Rory Reid, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Rogers Foundation, are celebrating a legal victory that has halted a constitutional initiative attempting to establish an extreme and unprecedented school voucher scheme in Nevada.
In Reid v. Cegavske, district court judge Charles McGee found the EFA voucher initiative completely invalid because it is confusing, misleading, and omits a discussion of the serious ramifications of the scheme, namely, its enormous costs to taxpayers and detrimental effect upon public education and other government services. The judge called the Education Freedom for Nevada PAC’s initiative a “shell game,” where voters are misled regarding the true costs of the scheme.
“It is encouraging to see that the courts are not going to allow this shadowy group to deceive the public into funding a scheme without knowing the extreme damage the proposal would have on our community,” said Reid. “This is a victory for our students, families, and the entire Nevada community.”
The judge held that the PAC failed to inform voters of the direct and collateral fiscal impacts of the scheme. He found the PAC "sidestepped the issue" of the impact on districts, such as how the scheme “might seriously affect programs, teachers, custodians, physical environment, electives, and the rest of the infrastructure” of the district. The judge plainly stated that this scheme could have an enormous impact on districts, and the PAC knows it, yet they failed to inform voters.
The judge also found that the fiscal impact used by the PAC was "too tepid." The PAC states the scheme could necessitate a tax increase or cuts to government services, but the fact is this scheme will cause not only that, but also will have "a most solemn and powerful effect on the public education system."
Furthermore, the Court found that initiative constitutes an unlawful unfunded mandate, because it causes expenditures without raising revenue to pay for its cost, and that it represents an impermissible use of the initiative process. For these reasons, the initiative cannot proceed to the signature-gathering phase or to the 2022 general election ballot.
This defeated constitutional initiative is one of two proposed initiatives filed by Erin Philips and the Education Freedom for Nevada PAC, a political group with ties to right wing groups. The statutory initiative, challenged in Rogers v. Cegavske, is still pending a court decision and seeks to re-introduce a controversial private school voucher program that ultimately went unfunded due to a successful legal case, Lopez v. Schwartz, in 2016. Though it was never funded, early applications revealed that wealthy families were overrepresented in those filing for the vouchers.
This failed constitutional initiative would have been one of the most extreme voucher measures in the country, putting taxpayers on the hook for at least $300 million to pay for wealthy families already enrolled in private school either through raising taxes on the community or by deep cuts to public district and charter schools or other community services.
“We should not pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a scheme that gives handouts to the wealthy already in private school, hurts our most vulnerable students, and permits rampant discrimination and lack of accountability,” said Rogers. “It goes to show that these groups cannot deceive our community. They have no right to and I am glad they are being held accountable for their fraudulent tactics.”