Nevada high court asked to restart school funding lawsuit :: WRAL.com



– An offer by an advocacy group to push decisions on Nevada education policy out of the legislature and the courts drew pointed questions Monday from the state Supreme Court.

The judges were asked to overturn a trial judge’s finding that debate belongs to the Senate and the State Assembly, not a courtroom.

They did not make an immediate ruling after heated arguments that included state solicitor general Heidi Parry Stern claiming that the state’s constitution would not prohibit packing 60 students into a third-grade class. .

Lawyer Bradley Schrager, representing several parents supported by a group called Educate Nevada Now, pleaded with judges to let litigants file a lawsuit to hold elected lawmakers accountable for broken promises.

“It’s a question of whether the resources provided to schools (…) are sufficient,” Schrager told judges in Las Vegas. He began his argument with a reference to “dismal truths about public education in Nevada”.

Nevada’s K-12 schools have long been at or near the bottom of the national rankings in per-student spending, class size, and student achievement. State lawmakers were told in March it would cost around $ 800 million in new spending just to meet national student-teacher ratios.

The advocacy group is funded by the Rogers Foundation, a Las Vegas-based philanthropic organization founded by Jim Rogers, the former media mogul and chancellor of the University of Nevada, and his wife, Beverly Rogers.

“Without court intervention, the condition and quality of our schools will continue to deteriorate, as they have for years,” Educate Nevada Now said in a statement on the matter.

Schrager told judges the trial and appeal represented an effort to “rekindle the notion of crisis … and use new tools in this fight.”

Carson City District Court Judge James Wilson dismissed the lawsuit in October 2020, declining to decide whether the state legislature violated constitutional requirements to provide resources for students to receive a “sufficient” and “basic” education and insisting on the “plain language” of the constitution of the state.

Courts have no jurisdiction over legislative decisions about “the amount of money … sufficient to fund the operation of public schools,” Wilson wrote, or “the programs and processes to be adopted to provide a uniform system of education. public school (s)). “

Money is only a resource, Schrager said before being interrupted by Judge Douglas Herndon, who asked if money wasn’t really the key issue.

Central issues in the trial, conceded Schrager, are funding, the political decisions of the legislature, and the doctrine of the separation of government power between the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government.

“It’s not that we’re asking the court to set (school) standards,” Schrager said, “but instead to judicially manage the standards that the state itself has already set.”

Stern found herself acknowledging the possibility of huge class size in response to a question of whether it would be constitutional if third-grade classes reached 50 or 60 students.

” I believe him. Yes, “Stern said, adding that Wilson said in his ruling that when it comes to educational standards,” the language of the Nevada Constitution is ambitious. “

“And is there any way to hold the government accountable for not meeting these standards?” Asked Judge Elissa Cadish.

“In justice? No, ”Stern replied. “Performance targets are not constitutional requirements. “

People vote to hold lawmakers to account, the state attorney added, and letting them sue the legislature would create an unmanageable “quagmire” of court challenges.

The court is expected to rule on the Shea v Nevada case in the coming weeks.


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