OPINION: Douglas County Ends School Voucher Program

By John Krieger

The Douglas County School Board voted Monday night to end the district’s controversial “Choice Scholarship” Program, which the Colorado Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in June 2015. The ACLU of Colorado with other partners, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Taxpayers for Public Education, a Douglas County education advocacy group, challenged the voucher program in 2011, highlighting the Colorado Constitution’s “specific prohibition” on government funds going to schools that are controlled by churches or religious organizations. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs and struck down the program.

ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein issued the following statement:

“We applaud the Douglas County School Board for responding to the clear message that voters sent in the recent election and conclusively ending the unconstitutional and divisive private school voucher program. The School District will no longer pursue a path that would weaken public schools by funneling taxpayer dollars to private, religious schools, in violation of our state constitution.

“As the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in 2015, parents are free to send their children to private, religious schools if they wish, but our constitution guarantees that taxpayers are not forced to pay for it.

“The so-called Choice Scholarship program, if allowed to stand, would have eviscerated core provisions of the religion and education clauses of the Colorado Constitution and given school districts around the state carte blanche to implement similar programs, with potentially devastating consequences for our state’s public school system.

“The School District can now move on from this costly chapter and focus on outcomes that will benefit all kids, not just the ones who can afford expensive private schools.”

John Krieger is Communications Director for ACLU Colorado.

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