Nevada’s Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo said a private foundation will fund the $3.2 million shortfall in choice scholarships, as Democrats rejected proposals from the governor to fund the program.
Without the use of the private funds, students who are already attending classes would have been forced from their schools.
Previously, the legislative committee rejected a plan from Lombardo to use $3.2 million of unallocated COVID-19 funds to fill the gap. The plan failed in a vote along partisan lines.
At the governor’s request, the AAA Scholarship Foundation said it would use its reserve funds to make sure that students don’t lose access to their scholarships this year, said local KSNV News 3 Las Vegas.
“However, unless legislative Democrats work with us on a long-term solution, children will be forced out of their schools and back into the very schools that failed to meet their unique educational needs,” he warned, according to US News and World Report.
Fox reports that Nevada ranks near the bottom in per-pupil funding and faces challenges with an aging infrastructure in both urban and rural schools.
Amy Tarkanian, a political commentator and former chair of the Nevada Republican Party, told The Lion that the actions by the progressives in Nevada painted a stark contrast.
“It’s pretty clear that the Democrats will do just about anything to protect the teachers’ unions at all costs, including at the cost of kids,” Tarkanian said in a phone interview. “On the other hand, it’s pretty clear that Republicans are siding firmly with parents and students who just want good schools.”
In the “Chance for Success” category, one study found that Nevada students ranked last in the nation.
Only 28% of fourth-grade students in Nevada are rated at or above proficient in math, found the Nation’s Report Card.
The same test found that just 27% of fourth-grade students in Nevada are at or above proficient in reading.
Nevada was among 15 other states with public schools that “performed significantly lower” than the national average, according to the same report.
“It’s a shame too, because we should be expanding the scholarship program, not putting it on deathwatch, as the Democrats have tried,” Tarkanian said.
Lombardo denounced the vote to kill the use of the COVID-19 funds for the program by the Interim Finance Committee (IFC) at the Nevada Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats.
The vote came at the end of a marathon 12-hour meeting, after Democrats in the legislature rejected fully funding Lombardo’s $50 million proposal, which would have expanded the program.
The scholarship program was approved by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2015.
“IFC’s incredible hostility towards a scholarship program that supports low-income children was on full display as Democratic legislators attacked representatives of organizations that provide scholarships to these children,” said Elizabeth Ray, press secretary for Lombardo. “The legislature has directed millions upon millions of dollars to their political supporters and pet projects, yet now refuses to fund the urgent needs of low-income students in Nevada through vetted and accountable scholarship organizations.”
Lombardo was especially incensed because the legislature and the IFC waited until the school year began, which could have resulted in the forcible removal of students from their schools.
At the same time, the governor vowed the fight over the scholarship program isn’t over.
“My administration grieves with the hundreds of students who will be crushed by Democrats removing them from their friends, teachers, and schools, and my administration remains more committed than ever to fighting for all Nevada students,” said Lombardo in a statement. “Our fight continues.”