School still life with copyspace on chalkboardWritten by Don Byrd

Earlier this week, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law a school voucher program that is likely the most expansive in the nation. Unlike voucher systems that target needy families, disabled students, or students in failing schools, Nevada’s would fund private schools (including religious education) for parents of all 450,000 public school children in the state.

The Washington Post reports on the potential for a legal challenge due to the state’s “no aid to religion” provision:

Democrats, teachers unions, public school superintendents and administrators are alarmed, saying that the Nevada law to provide private school vouchers is the first step toward dismantling the nation’s public schools.

Assemblyman Elliot T. Anderson, a Las Vegas Democrat, said the new program could face a legal challenge because the state constitution prevents “public funds of any kind or character whatever” spent for sectarian purposes.

That legal challenge might be based on Article 11, Section 10 of the Nevada State Constitution, which states: “No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.”

Does that blanket prohibition on the use of taxpayer funds for religious purpose bar school voucher programs that send public money to religious schools? Stay tuned.

The Baptist Joint Committee has long opposed school vouchers on religious liberty grounds, and last year filed a brief with the Colorado Supreme Court opposing a voucher scheme in that state. The argument there cites a somewhat similar provision in the Colorado Constitution prohibiting the use of government funds for sectarian purpose.