In a landmark victory for school choice, the Colorado Court of Appeals surprised educators in the state by affirming the constitutionality of a Douglas County voucher program that allocates money for students who attend “private school partners” rather than government-run schools.
The voucher program came under attack when the organization Taxpayers for Public Education sued the Douglas County School District. The suit challenged the constitutionality of state funding for a program that gave money to parents for their children’s attendance at private religious schools.
In defense of school choice, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and Colorado Springs attorney Stuart Lark filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Association of Christian Schools International, the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, Shepherd of the Hills Christian School, Southeast Christian School and Valor Christian High School.
“School districts should favor educational choices for parents and their children,” Lark said.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the Choice Scholarship Program was “neutral toward religion.”
The court decision also noted that the funds “make their way to private schools with religious affiliation by means of personal choices of students’ parents.”
Lark said the court “rightly found that the Choice Scholarship Program does this in a manner that respects both the private religious choices of Colorado families and our country’s commitment to religious liberty.”
“It is perfectly constitutional for religious schools to participate in the program when they meet all other requirements,” he said.
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor pointed out that “neither the U.S. nor the Colorado constitutions allow a school that meets all other qualifications to be kept out of a religiously neutral program solely because the school’s core values are grounded in religious convictions.”
“These schools provide an excellent education that meets all state standards,” he said. “It is good that they will continue to be welcomed into voucher programs like this one so that students, the community, and the government will all benefit.”