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Waiting for Dougco Choice Ruling? Florida, Kansas Serve Up Good News

Education policy and the courts: Usually not a match made in heaven. Though often there’s a very good reason to pay close attention. Like six months ago, when I proclaimed my excitement that the landmark Douglas County school choice case finally reached a hearing at the Colorado Supreme Court.

Sorry if I got anybody’s hopes up. We’re into the summer months, closing in on the fourth anniversary of when the complaint was first filed against the Choice Scholarship Program, and here we are still waiting for the big decision from the seven justices.

Meanwhile, you can cheer up a bit at a tidbit of good school choice news from a different case:

The Florida School Boards Association has decided not to appeal a ruling against the group’s challenge to Florida’s tax credit scholarship program for low-income youths.

Definitely a big hooray for the 70,000 low-income kids whose K-12 scholarships and opportunities at a better future were threatened. It would have been a lot better if the FSBA had listened to Denisha eight months ago. But we’ll take this news. It looks like the teachers union is the only one left hanging on to this lawsuit, and the clock is quickly ticking down.

The status quo forces of the Education-Industrial Complex also recently suffered a legal setback in Kansas (H/T Choice Media). Shawnee County District Court Judge Larry Hendricks tossed out the state teachers union’s attempt to undo a tenure reform law. As explained in the Topeka Capital-Journal, the House Bill 2506 provision removed a state-guaranteed job protection for poorly performing teachers, leaving the option with local school boards.

Right here in Colorado, a similar teachers union lawsuit to try to turn tenure into a state constitutional right drags on. When last I updated you about the case of Masters v DPS, the Colorado Education Association had filed its opening argument in the formal appeal.

But we just might get a quicker response in a totally different education-related Colorado court case: Dwyer v State. For those in the know, this case essentially is the legal sequel to Colorado’s Lobato. One big difference is that a successful ruling for the plaintiffs wouldn’t be as costly as Lobato, though it would make decisions tougher for legislators in the near future.

The formal complaint in Dwyer came more than four years after my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow wondered aloud whether CEA and its allies might sue then-Gov. Bill Ritter over sidestepping Amendment 23 to impose a “negative factor” on the school’s funding formula. It took a long time for different plaintiffs to sue the state under a different governor.

Last week, Chalkbeat reported on Dwyer‘s Supreme Court oral arguments and competing interpretations that baffled some of the black robes:

The two sides have different interpretations of such key terms as “base funding” and “per-student funding,” a gap alluded to by Justice Nathan Coats.

“Reading the two sets of briefs, it’s like two ships passing in the night,” Coats remarked.

You want to know a not-so-well-kept secret? Education policy wonks already know that such lack of clarity is typical in discussions about school finance terms and figures. Here’s hoping the Colorado Supreme Court can sort it all out sensibly.

But before that happens, I certainly would expect a sensible (and blockbuster) ruling in favor of student and parental choice in Douglas County — and by extension, throughout Colorado. Right? I mean, how long can a kid wait?? Stay tuned, and try to stay more patient than this perpetually 5-year-old edublogger.