Huffpost Denver

Douglas County School District Heads To State Appeals Court Monday

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DOUGLAS COUNTY COLORADO
Alamy

On Monday the Douglas County School District and the group suing over its controversial voucher program will be back in court to resume their arguments in the Colorado State Court of Appeals.

Last year Denver District Judge Michael Martinez decided to grant the preliminary and a permanent 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. A couple hundred students however had already begun attending those schools when 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".

Anne Klein-Kopf, the director of Taxpayers for Public Education who is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit told the Denver Post that the Douglas County voucher program violates state law in six areas, including the requirement from some of the schools for students to attend religious service.

"The way these monies are taken and spent is hurting all schoolchildren in Colorado."