School-choice setback in Colorado

Friday, July 3, 2015
 | 
Bob Kellogg (OneNewsNow.com)

Opponents of school choice in Colorado – who have been suing Douglas County's taxpayer scholarship program for years – were finally handed a victory this week by the state's Supreme Court.

In 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it's permissible under the U.S. Constitution to include faith-based schools in school-choice programs. But on Monday, a divided Colorado Supreme Court ruled Douglas County's program unconstitutional stating, in part, that "a school district may not aid religious schools."

Michael Bindas, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, was surprised by that decision. "The Colorado Supreme Court reversed that [Supreme Court] decision in a very poorly reasoned opinion that ... in resolving this state constitutional question actually creates new federal constitutional problems," he tells OneNewsNow.

The Institute for Justice is consulting with the Douglas County School District, but Bindas is confident they will file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bindas

"Ideally, the Supreme Court would make clear that a state cannot rely on its own constitution to single out and exclude religious options from educational aid programs the way Colorado did," he explains.

The attorney adds that if the court takes up that issue – "and answers it properly" – it would be "a hugely significant case that will have binding precedential effect" across the U.S.

In the meantime, school officials say they are moving ahead with a modified voucher program. Mark Silverstein of the ACLU of Colorado says his organization will challenge that as well.

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