Last year, Nevada adopted one of the most radical voucher plans in the nation. Of course, the vouchers are not called “vouchers,” but “education savings accounts.” But the principle is the same. Families will get a tax break worth more than $5,000 if they withdraw their child from public school and enroll them in a private or religious school. There are no limits on who may use these vouchers. In other states, vouchers are available only to those who are low-income or those who are enrolled in schools where test scores are low. In Nevada, anyone can use public money to go where they choose.

Here is a description of the debate.

Nevada is a state that has strong constitutional protections for public schools, but the governor and the legislature have decided that the state constitution doesn’t mean what it says.

One judge said the plan was unconstitutional in January.

One judge upheld the voucher program in May.

Here is what the state constitution says.


Article 11 of the Nevada constitution declares:

Sec: 9.  Sectarian instruction prohibited in common schools and university.  No sectarian instruction shall be imparted or tolerated in any school or University that may be established under this Constitution.

Section Ten.  No public money to be used for sectarian purposes.  No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.
[Added in 1880. Proposed and passed by the 1877 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1879 legislature; and approved and ratified by the people at the 1880 general election. See: Statutes of Nevada 1877, p. 221; Statutes of Nevada 1879, p. 149.]

You be the judge.

Do you see any ambiguity here? Do you see a constitutional clause that is permissive? Is the phrase “No public money to be used for sectarian purposes” ambiguous?