Nevada has instituted a new program to help parents pay for their children's private school education, and in the three weeks following this announcement, the state has received almost half the number of applicants it had expected for the entire year.
KLAS-TV reports the Education Savings Account program allows parents to remove their children from public school and to access part of their children's education funding to pay for that private school tuition. One caveat is that the student needs to have spent at least 100 days in public school.
Once a student is approved for the plan, 90% of his or her student funding is given to the parents for their child to attend any school. Approximately 600 of the 2,000 applications were processed by the State Treasurer's office last week. About 100 applications come into the office each day.
At this time, the office is not sharing how many applications have been approved. One mother, Sandra Salas, said:
"I've been wanting my kids to go to a private school or to a better school but my husband and I pretty much work paycheck to paycheck."
The program will give up to $5,000 to pay for private school, but one limitation applies. Only about 6,000 private school seats are available, according to Victor Joecks, the Executive Vice President of Nevada Policy Research Institute. But Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky states that in spite of logistical problems and questions about regulations, parents should have a choice about their child's education. One question that has already arisen is whether kindergartners would qualify for the program since they have not yet clocked 100 days in public school.
Participating private schools will also have to file an application which will become available in October. The application period for students and schools ends November 30, and those approved will receive funds during the first week in April.
The Associated Press reports that Nevada lawmakers voted along party lines this week to approve $116,000 in startup funds for the online enrollment system for the new savings account, but they were concerned that the contractor, who was possibly going to build the account's online system, seems to have had his state business license revoked.
The state treasurer's office said this was only because i2Net, the potential contractor, was reorganizing under a different name after a divorce. But Democrats in a meeting of the legislative Interim Finance Committee voted "no" on the spending.
"When I looked at the way the state treasurer's moving through the process, I see tons of red flags," said Democratic Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez Thompson. "Talking to vendors who may or may not have actual business licenses â¦ they're rushing into partnerships that seem, right now, dubious."
"Ultimately, I think it's going to end up costing the taxpayers more by rushing through this process and having to come back and revisit and fix these things," she added.
The State Board of Examiners will have to approve the final contract in September, so the acceptance or rejection of the proposed contractor will be decided at that time.