Colorado's First Voucher Program Won't Be Slowed By Lawsuits, Board Says
Douglas County School District officials say their controversial pilot scholarship is going to move forward until a court orders it to stop.
The day after two lawsuits were filed, by three civil liberties unions on behalf of a group of parents and Taxpayers for Public Education a few hours later, the Douglas County voucher program held its scholarship lottery to help students afford choices outside of the public school system. Today the ACLU -- one of the plaintiffs -- accused the Colorado Board and Department of Education of "accounting acrobatics" for funneling funds outside of taxpayer jurisdiction.
It is the first such lottery in Colorado and looked like a scene out of Waiting for Superman, except that instead of charter school placement many winners of this lottery may be getting Jesus Christ Superstar.
Of the 19 private schools partnered with Douglas County for the scholarship program, 14 are religious schools that would be receiving taxpayer money through the voucher.
The school board says that students may opt out of religious education components of the schools, but the ACLU points out that at least one of the approved schools, Evangelical Christian Academy, requires parents to declare their faith in writing with a born again believer's testimony.
A mother whose son was a scholarship recipient yesterday agreed, telling 9News:
It doesn't matter whether it's religious or it's not religious...This is huge for him.
Maritza Carrera of Douglas County told the ACLU in a press release:
We joined this lawsuit because we believe the American middle class is made stronger by public schools; by the value of equal education for all. Vouchers chip away at the pillar of public education. Public dollars should go to public schools -- period.
In March, the Douglas County School Board unanimously passed the pilot voucher program and was praised highly by former chancellor of Washington D.C. schools Michelle Rhee for the move.
Rhee is quoted in the Denver Post:
I was not going to be the one to tell these moms that they couldn't take the money, that they should stick it out with us and hopefully in five years we could get the schools performing -- even though in the meantime your child's not going to learn to read.