SB 302 – Educational Savings Account (ESA) Bill
Considerable discussion has commenced on the new ESA Bill – SB 302. The State Treasurer has been charged by the NV Legislature as the “governing body” over implementation of this new “School Choice” program. To date, public workshops were held by the Treasurer’s Office in the writing of proposed regulations for the program. However, two lawsuits were filed against the program and awaiting final decision from the Nevada Supreme Court; decision expected mid-summer, 2016.
As always, NHN supports parents no matter the education option they choose to educate their children whether it be via public school, private school, homeschool or now the ESA Grant Program. However, it must be stressed that this new “school choice” program is “publicly funded” and as such, comes with “accountability measures” that make it more restrictive than some parents may want in comparison to homeschool freedom. There are many things to consider in choosing which education option is best for your child.
- There are home based education programs already available to parents in this state that may look like homeschooling but simply are not the same under the law. These programs include; virtual charter schools (state sponsored, child receives education at home via internet classrooms), distance education (offered through the local public school, child receives education at home provide by the school district), and now an ESA Opt-in Child who receives their education from a “Participating Entity” approved by the State Treasurer and chosen by the parent. But in all these examples “accountability” to the government system of education prevails in some way.
- In the new ESA Grant Program, a Nevada private school, college program, private online school, certified tutor/tutoring agency or a parent may apply to become a “Participating Entity” and must be approved by the State Treasurer. There are “accountability measures” the Participating Entity must meet to continue in the program. A parent who becomes a Participating Entity may purchase curriculum with grant money and provide instruction to the child themselves but they also must meet the same accountability measures required of other Participating Entities. This is where the differences between this new form of “home based education” and “homeschooling” become legally significant.
- “HOMESCHOOLING” is for those parents who do not wish to receive money from the state, use a state approved program, nor be “accountable” to the state for the education of their child. For these families, the Homeschool Law remains intact. Parents of a Homeschool Child will continue to take full responsibility for the education of their child FREE from government oversight. Parents choosing to homeschool simply notify the local school district that they are homeschooling, there is no “approval” process.
There are many creative ways within the ESA Program for children to receive an education and this may be a viable option for some families in our state. However, as a “cost-savings measure” by the Legislature, eligibility for an ESA was limited to children enrolled in a public school. As a result, current private school and homeschool students are not eligible for the grant money but may become eligible by enrolling in a public/charter school “100 consecutive school days”. For a child who was previously homeschooled, the NOI to Homeschool on file with the local school district becomes null and void and the child becomes a public school student. Once the 100 day requirement has been met, parents may apply for the ESA Grant on behalf of the child and use a “Participating Entity” approved by the state for the education of the child. The child’s LEGAL school status is now an “Opt-in Child”, not a Homeschool Child
Parents considering the ESA program should be aware of the “accountability” requirements for the program such as an annual standardized test being administered to an “Opt-in Child” by the “participating entity” providing the education. The test results must be reported to the State Treasure’s office for “review of academic progress” (according to testimony provided by Senator Scott Hammond, sponsor of SB 302, to the Senate and Assembly Education Committees) and to the DOE for the “publishing of aggregate data” which may link these children to the State Longitudinal Data System. In addition, Education Savings Accounts will be audited annually by the State Treasurer’s office to review the “educational expenses” parents pay for with the account in an effort to prevent fraud and abuse.
To follow ongoing discussion on this topic we refer you to the NHN Facebook Page.
Parents wishing to learn more about an ESA Grant may refer to the NV State Treasurer’s website.