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Legal Complaint against DougCo Vouchers Rooted in Irony, Anti-Catholic Bigotry

It’s the first day of summer, “longest day of the year” — which may have something to do with trying to get as much attention as possible for a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and friends to try to stop Douglas County’s choice scholarship (voucher) program. Ed News Colorado was among the first to report today:

Some Douglas County parents and three civil liberties groups have filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of Douglas County’s pilot voucher program, set to launch this fall.

The suit, filed this morning in Denver District Court by groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, seeks a preliminary injunction to immediately halt the plan.

Douglas County school district officials did not quickly respond to a request for comment. They have scheduled a 3:30 p.m. press conference today at Castle View High School in Castle Rock to discuss the suit. [emphasis added]

Civil liberties? Is the irony lost on anyone that they are fighting to take away educational freedoms from parents and families? Maybe only certain kinds of choice are “civil liberties.” Guess I might just be too young to grasp all the nuance. But I will be gracious enough to hold out hope that opponents could change their minds about vouchers.

Speaking of irony, after railing against a number of religious schools, the plaintiffs wrap up with a “prayer of relief” to the judge. Maybe they are just terribly confused. Reading through the complaint, you get the impression they believe that parents will be forced to send their children to schools they don’t want — especially those icky religious schools. And maybe they don’t realize, or just don’t care about, the “nativist, anti-Catholic bigotry” in the Colorado constitution on which their case is constructed.

Anyway, below I’ve pasted a press release from my Education Policy Center friends, followed by some important links to previous writings on Douglas County:

Lawsuit Against Dougco Voucher Program Draws Fire
Institute Decries Attempt to Stifle Parental Choice through Courts

GOLDEN, Colo.— The Independence Institute, Colorado’s leading voice for free market policy, denounces a newly-filed lawsuit designed to stop a groundbreaking school board program from helping local families to pay for a chosen private education.

Today the American Civil Liberties Union and other school choice foes filed formal legal action to stop Douglas County families from using district vouchers to choose a private school.

“The lawsuit is disappointing, but really not surprising,” said Education Policy Center director Pam Benigno. “Opponents of parental choice and educational freedom have tried this approach many times before. For the sake of the families who will benefit, we hope it fails.”

On March 15, 2011, the Douglas County R-1 Board of Education unanimously approved a groundbreaking pilot program to issue publicly-funded “choice scholarships” to enroll at a “partner” private school. The program’s design answers the objection in the Colorado Supreme Court’s 4-3 ruling that struck down a statewide voucher program on the basis of an alleged violation of the state constitution’s provision for local school board control of instruction.

Nearly 500 current Douglas County students who applied for a choice scholarship each will be able to use $4,575 in tax funds to cover or defray private tuition costs for the 2011-12 school year. Thirty-one private schools applied to meet minimum requirements and become a “partner” school. Nineteen schools—including five independent, non-religious schools—thus far have been approved to receive choice scholarship students.

“What’s exciting for Douglas County parents is they have a genuine range of options,” Benigno said. “Parents can choose between different kinds of religious and non-religious schools. Unfortunately, some people find certain choices offensive.”

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 a private school parental choice program.