Sandoval wants Education Savings Account case fast-tracked

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gov. Brian Sandoval asked Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt on Friday to do whatever he can to fast-track a court case over the state's broad new Education Savings Account program — a challenge Laxalt said he's accepting.

The Republican governor said the more than 2,000 families who have applied to participate need certainty about the program, which allows parents to claim a majority of their child's per-pupil state education funding and use it for private school tuition or other qualified education expenses. The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued, saying it would unlawfully funnel state money to religious schools.

"The uncertainty and legal gridlock created by this lawsuit will significantly impact student success," Sandoval said. "This will only hinder our efforts to equip every Nevada student with the tools they need to pursue the opportunities available in the new Nevada economy."

Students must attend public school for at least 100 days before becoming eligible for the program. Some parents have already pulled their children out of private school or home school settings and placed them in public school so they can claim the money when it becomes available.

Laxalt said Friday that his office was served with the lawsuit Thursday, but said he's already assembled a top-notch legal team to explore the state's options.

"The ACLU's attempt to derail the prompt implementation of this pioneering program and create uncertainty for many Nevada students, parents and educators is truly unfortunate," Laxalt said.

The Nevada Legislature voted along party lines this spring to authorize the program, which is considered the broadest of its kind in the U.S. The state treasurer's office has been collecting applications for several weeks with the intention of disbursing funds to parents by April, but plaintiffs have said they plan to seek an injunction that would put a hold on that process.

Laxalt, a Republican, noted the complexity of the case and said he empathized with parents who wanted more school choice.

"My priority is to ensure that my office provides the most comprehensive, considered and successful defense possible of this crucial law," he said.

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