The Douglas County Board of Education has created a “Pilot Choice Scholarship Plan,” through which the Douglas County School District has authorized 500 students to use state, per-pupil educational funds that are earmarked for the public school system as vouchers to attend private schools. Most of the participating “Private School Partners” are religious, and these participating schools may discriminate on the basis of religion in both hiring and admissions.
In June 2011, Americans United (joined by the national ACLU and the ACLU of Colorado) filed a lawsuit in Colorado state court challenging the voucher plan. Our lawsuit argues that the County, along with state agencies that helped to develop and fund the voucher program, violated both the Colorado Constitution’s religious liberty provisions, which bar the appropriation of public funds to religious schools, and a variety of other constitutional and statutory requirements.
In August 2011, following a three-day trial, the court stopped implementation of the voucher program, concluding that it violated five separate provisions of the Colorado Constitution as well as a Colorado statute. Among other things, the court held that the program unconstitutionally provides taxpayer money to religious institutions.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's decision and upheld the voucher program. In March 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. (Read our opening brief, reply to the government's brief, and reply to the intervenors' brief.)
In June 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the appeals court and ruled that the voucher program violates the Colorado Constitution.