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Lawsuit seeks to force improvements in state education system

nevada_supreme_court.jpg
Patrick Nouhaille via Wikimedia Commons
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The Nevada Supreme Court building, where justices heard a case alleging the state's education system is failing its students to point of violating the state constitution.

The Nevada Supreme Court heard a case Monday in which the plaintiffs argued that the state’s public school system provides limited resources and funding, both of which fall, quote,  “egregiously short “ of what’s required by the state constitution.

Parent and longtime education activist Caryne Shea said she brought the lawsuit because of the powerful and sometimes hidden hand that state government has in public education.

"We get so angry at the school district for things that our children don't receive — resources that our children don't receive, whether it's overcrowding, or long-term substitute teachers, and we come and we bellyache at the district level meetings," she said. "And what we found is that a lot of decisions are being made at the state level.  And parents are unaware of that."

Plaintiff's attorney Bradley Schrager, who donated his time on the case, said the Nevada Constitution, like those of many other states, contains language to "encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual disciplines."

He said that serves as a promise to Nevadans that the state guarantees the opportunity to become informed voters and citizens.

"If your constitution says you need to provide an education, there is a qualitative aspect to that — there must be resources made available that will allow that education to be useful."

Justices were asked Monday to overrule a lower court judge’s finding that political and policy debates belong in the state Senate and Assembly, not in a courtroom.

Heidi Parry Stern, solicitor general for the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, argued that the courts have no role in determining the appropriate funding levels for Nevada’s public schools. Rather, she said that responsibility is left to state legislators and local taxpayers.

The defendants in the case are listed as the Nevada Department of Education and Nevada’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joan E-bert. The court’s decision will likely be delivered within the coming months.

“This complaint was intended, in some part, to revive the notion of crisis, of ongoing crisis and to ignite an opportunity to employ new tools in this fight,” Schrager told the Nevada Current.

 

Caryne Shea, education advocate; Bradley Schrager, attorney

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