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Published On: Mon, Jun 29th, 2015

Colorado Supreme Court kills school voucher program, stops scholarships for students

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday against a school district’s voucher program, stating that it was a violation of the state’s Constitution. The lawsuit centered around taxpayer scholarships to help pay for tuitions to private schools.

Douglas County School District’s “voucher program” was called into question by Taxpayers for Public Education and several other parties.

The district implemented the Choice Scholarship Pilot program four years ago, using $4,575 in taxpayer scholarships to up to 500 qualifying students to help pay for tuition at private schools.

“We have always believed that the ultimate legality of our choice scholarship program would be decided by the federal courts under The United States Constitution,” said DCSD Board President Kevin Larsen. “This could very well be simply a case of delayed gratification.”

DCSD also revealed plans to move forward with a modified voucher program.

“And if there are ways of proceeding immediately, that are compliant, we will do that,” said DCSD Board Director Craig Richardson. “Even as we consider bringing the United States Supreme Court into the picture.’

“I don’t think the Supreme Court is interested in hearing the arguments that the Douglas County school board is going to advance,” said Mark Silverstein with the ACLU of Colorado.

photo/Revisorweb

photo/Revisorweb

Silverstein says the ACLU and others will be ready to challenge it again. They will also challenge any modified voucher program that includes private schools.

“State taxpayer dollars cannot be used to fund that choice,” said Matt Douglas, with Arnold and Porter LLP.

“This isn’t about parental choice,” said Sandra Barnard with Taxpayers for Public Education, who fought the voucher program. “The school gets to choose the kids they will educate with tax dollars.”

The section in the Coloardo Constitution reads:
“Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever; nor shall any grant or donation of land, money or other personal property, ever be made by the state, or any such public corporation to any church, or for any sectarian purpose.”

The case was sent back to the Court of Appeals with instructions to return the case to the trial court so it can reinstate its order permanently enjoining the CSP.

“This is a great victory for public school children in Colorado,” Taxpayers for Public Education President Cindy Barnard said in a statement. “The DCSD voucher program took taxpayer funds, intended for public education, and used that money to pay for private school education for a few select students. The decision means that money set aside for public education in Colorado can only be used the way it was intended to be used — for the betterment of education in Colorado public schools.”

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