Nevada’s legislature has passed a law meant to help low-income students pay for private schools, making the Silver State the latest in a growing number of states to offer private school choice programs.
The bill passed both houses on party-line votes and now heads to Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), who proposed the legislation and hailed its passage as a “great day for students across Nevada.”
The program will offer businesses a total of up to $10.5 million in tax credits over the next two years in exchange for donations to qualifying scholarship organizations. Scholarship organizations then may dole out up to $7,755 per student per year to help pay private-school tuition.
Eligible children would be those from families with a household income under 300 percent of the poverty level — or about $73,000 a year for a family of four, according to the Associated Press.
Republicans argued that it would offer poor children a way to escape low-performing schools, while Democrats called it a voucher program in disguise that would divert money that could otherwise be used to improve public schools.
Democrats also said the bill failed to target the lowest-income children. More than 70 percent of children statewide are expected to be eligible for the money, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The number of states offering private school choice programs has grown in recent years, and as of 2014, 24 states and the District offered some kind of public support to broaden access to private schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
By the end of this year, more than half of the states in the country are expected to have such programs. In addition to Nevada, legislatures in Arkansas and Mississippi have passed bills creating private school choice programs. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed that state’s bill into law this week, creating scholarships worth up to $6,646 for special-needs students to attend a private school of their parents’ choice.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is expected to sign that state’s bill into law. It would create a new education savings account that would give parents of special-needs students up to $6,500 to spend on educational expenses, including private school tuition or specialized therapy.