In response to today’s announced ruling from the Denver District Court concerning a request to enjoin the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program, the Independence Institute has released the following statement:
Dougco Choice Ruling Harms Kids, But Fight Goes On
Benigno: “Students Deserve Real Options that Best Suit Their Needs”
GOLDEN, Colo.— The Independence Institute, Colorado’s leading voice for free market policy, says today’s ruling to enjoin an innovative local school choice program represents a surprising setback, but not the final word on the subject.
Denver District Court Judge Michael A. Martinez today granted plaintiffs’ request to put a stop to the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program, declaring that school districts do not have “the broad authority to contract with private schools for the provision of a public education to public school students.” (A copy of the ruling can be found here.)
“While today’s ruling is unexpected and disappointing, the fight certainly isn’t over,” said Education Policy Center director Pam Benigno. “Students deserve real options that best suit their needs. I believe the humble courage of Douglas County leaders will be vindicated in the end.”
The judge’s ruling follows closely after a three-day hearing in Denver District Court. A number of individuals and groups—including the ACLU—filed legal complaints on June 21 and a formal request for injunction of the Choice Scholarship Program two weeks later.
Legal protests didn’t come until more than three months after the Douglas County R-1 Board of Education’s March 15 unanimous approval of the groundbreaking pilot program. Initial tuition payments have been made on behalf of many of the 500 Douglas County students eligible to receive a choice scholarship at one of the 23 private schools that since have agreed to partner with the district.
“Why did they wait so long to try to shut down the program?” Benigno said. “Today’s ruling is even sadder because of all the students and families whose lives have been disrupted.”
Along with a number of local community members and school leaders, Benigno and senior education policy analyst Ben DeGrow served on the Douglas County School Choice Task Force that helped to craft a number of district policy recommendations, including for the establishment of private school parental choice. DeGrow also was named to the board of the Choice Scholarship School newly created to implement the program.
The Independence Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Golden, Colo.