Douglas County Voucher Program Ordered To Halt By Permanent Injunction
After last week's three day hearing, Denver District Judge Michael Martinez decided to grant the preliminary injunction to halt Douglas County School District's controversial voucher program until a ruling can be made to establish its legality.
Under Colorado's first voucher program, up to 500 students would be allotted $4,575 in taxpayer funds each to attend a tuition school outside of the district. Several of the students, though the precise number is unknown at the time, have already begun attending those schools. According to the Denver Post however, 277 have fully applied to the program with another 123 still pending.
A handful of civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, filed a lawsuit on behalf of concerned Douglas County parents against the voucher in late June. Of the 19 private partner schools approved to take part in the voucher program, 14 are religious schools and during the hearing it became clear that many of them wouldn't allow students to withdraw from religious courses. To be clear, parents could choose which school to send their child to, but if a parent chose to send their child to a religious school then at least part of their tuition funds would come from taxpayer dollars.
The voucher program passed the Douglas County School Board unanimously in May.
"We all support the right of parents to send their children to private schools," ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said at a press conference in June shortly after filing the lawsuit. "The issue is they cannot do so with taxpayers' money."
In July The Huffington Post reported that the school district said it had already distributed $158,000 in funds to private schools on behalf of 140 students and stated in court that parents had already "re-arranged their lives to permit their child to attend a partner school of their choice".
Denver District Judge Michael Martinez issued a preliminary and permanent injunction, even though plaintiffs only asked for a preliminary injunction.