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Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Voucher Setback in Colorado

AP reported last week:

A Denver judge blocked Colorado's first school voucher program Friday, calling the program to give parents in the state's wealthiest county checks for tuition at religious schools a "substantial disservice to the public interest."

Denver District Judge Michael Martinez sided with a group of parents, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State. They asked for an injunction blocking the "Choice Scholarship Pilot Program" in Douglas County.

The voucher opponents argued the program violates the separation of church and state because it gives taxpayer money to parents for use at approved private schools, including some religious schools.

The judge noted that some of the schools authorized for Douglas vouchers require students to attend religious services. Martinez said the voucher program "violates both financial and religious provisions set forth in the Colorado constitution."

School-choice advocates vowed to appeal. More than 200 students have already gotten voucher money from the county to use this fall. One of the private schools in the program starts Monday, and it wasn't immediately clear whether any of the checks had been cashed. A message for the school district spokesman was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.

Wayne Laugesen writes at The Colorado Springs Gazette:

A low-court ruling to stop Douglas County’s school voucher program is a decision to segregate and oppress. Higher courts will likely side with parents and children, not special interests and bureaucrats.


When Denver District Judge Michael Martinez blocked the voucher program, he chose to empower local government to restrict decisions of parents and children. That’s why Diana Oakley testified near tears at the injunction hearing. She correctly feared the court would limit her son’s options. The boy has autism. She planned to use his voucher to pay for a private school that could help him succeed. As a result of the ruling, at least for now, the boy’s hopes are gone. Unlike Linda Brown, the boy won’t be able to attend the school that makes most sense. He will attend a school that Martinez determined is entitled to the boy’s money.

It is the boy’s money, afterall. In Colorado, education money attaches to children. With each child who enrolls, a public school gets more than $6,000 for the year.

Vouchers issue the money to parents. At that point, the money belongs to the parent and child. They are free to spend it at almost any accredited school, religious or otherwise. Public schools hate it because they want all the money