July/August 2016 Church & State - July/August 2016

AU And Allied Groups Challenge New Voucher Scheme In Colorado

  AU admin

Americans United and allied groups have blocked an attempt to reinstitute a voucher plan in Douglas County, Colo.

In June 2015, Americans United and other groups successfully challenged the Douglas County School District’s so-called “Choice Scholarship Pilot Program” when the Colorado Sup­reme Court ruled that the ploy violated the Colorado Constitution because it improperly diverted public funds to private, religious schools.

Following the decision, the district and the Institute for Justice, a pro-voucher group that represents parents who want to use taxpayer funds to send their children to religious schools, appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court has yet to rule on the matter, which led members of the Douglas County school board to concoct a slightly modified version of the voucher program that excludes religious schools. In April, the Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of parents insisting that religious schools be admitted into the program.

Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the national ACLU and the law firm Arnold & Porter filed a motion in court to dismiss the case.

On June 9, AU and the ACLU scored a big win when U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger denied a motion by the Institute for Justice requesting that religious schools be admitted into the voucher program.

Krieger called the law in this area “extremely unsettled” and expres­sed doubt that the parents who are seeking taxpayer-funded vouchers for religious schools could win their case.

Matt Douglas, an attorney with Arnold & Porter who is working on the case, hailed the decision in a statement issued on behalf of AU and the ACLU.

“As we’ve argued throughout this case, and as the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed, parents are free to send their children to private, religious schools if they wish, but taxpayers should not be forced to pay for it,” Douglas said.  

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