Thursday, June 19, 2014

Constitutional Challenge to Locally Adopted Voucher Plan in Colorado by Molly Hunter

In Larue v. Douglas County School District, plaintiffs charge that a locally designed voucher program violates the Colorado Constitution. The program would funnel public funds to private, mostly religious, schools on behalf of some Douglas County families.

The Larue trial court issued an injunction that prevented the program from going into effect, but the appeals court overruled. Now the case is before the final decision-maker, the Colorado Supreme Court.

On May 29, 2014, several amici, or "friends of the court," filed briefs in support of plaintiffs. The parties and some amici addressed the state constitution's prohibition against spending public funds on religious education and plaintiffs' standing to bring the lawsuit.

Education Law Center (ELC) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) filed a joint amicus brief that provides the Court with the national perspective on key issues relevant to the appeal. This brief explains that:

  1. School voucher programs in other states have not improved student academic achievement.
  2. Due to the design of Colorado's formula for state funding of K-12 schools, this voucher plan would reduce resources available to the public school students in Douglas County and across the entire state.
  3. This voucher plan would send public taxpayer funds to private, religious schools on behalf of well-to-do families.

After the plaintiff parents and taxpayers in the Douglas County School District, a Denver suburb, filed their request for an injunction in 2011, the state district court held a three-day hearing. The court issued its injunction, preventing implementation, and held that the program violates various provisions of the Colorado Constitution and two Colorado statutes.

The Larue case is similar to "Blaine Amendment" cases in Arizona and Florida, where publicly funded vouchers for mostly religious schools were found to violate those states' constitutions. 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/education_law/2014/06/constitutional-challenge-to-locally-adopted-voucher-plan-in-colorado-by-molly-hunter.html

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