EDUCATION JUSTICE - ELC's National Program July 7, 2015
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Program Violated State Constitution

Denver, CO --- On June 29, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down the Douglas County School District (DCSD) voucher program, in Taxpayers for Public Education v. Douglas County School District, concluding that the program violated the Colorado Constitution.

The Court ruled against the district's voucher program based on the state constitution's prohibition of public money going to schools "controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever." "This stark constitutional provision makes one thing clear," the Court wrote, "a school district may not aid religious schools."

As reported by The New York Times, "The vouchers were at the heart of a series of conservative reforms that have transformed Douglas County into an educational battleground in recent years, pitting teachers' unions, civil liberties groups and liberal families against conservative families, a majority conservative school board, and a group backed by the billionaire conservative Koch brothers."

"This is a great victory for public school children in Colorado," said Cindy Barnard, President of Taxpayers for Public Education (TFPE), one of the plaintiffs in the case. "The DCSD voucher program would have taken 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."

Other plaintiffs and intervenors in the suit included children and parents of the Douglas County School District, Douglas County citizens and several local and national organizations that support a strong and vital public education system.

"As we celebrate this important victory, we have to continue to closely watch the current leaders of the Douglas County School District as they look to implement other programs and methods that would erode the quality of public education in their own district," said Barnard.

Several organizations filed amicus briefs with the Colorado Supreme Court on this appeal, including the Education Law Center (ELC) in conjunction with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). In its brief, ELC advised the Court that this was a "bizarre" voucher program that "unlawfully channels public money to wealthy, high-achieving students to subsidize their religious education." The brief also explained that the "state money improperly diverted" to the vouchers would "result in a net loss for the public schools." Moreover, "the research uniformly establishes that school voucher programs do not improve students' academic performance," the amici informed the Court.

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Education Law Center Press Contact:

Molly A. Hunter

Education Justice, Director

973-624-1815, x 19

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