Douglas County Vouchers Face Preliminary Injunction Filed In Two Lawsuits

Plaintiffs filed a motion Tuesday and Wednesday asking Denver District Court to prohibit the implementation of the Douglas County School District's Choice Scholarship Pilot Program, more widely known as the voucher program.

The motion for preliminary injunction was filed in two lawsuits by Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Taxpayers for Education, and Douglas County parents. It states that unless the program is halted immediately, the school board will have funneled over $3 million in public funds to private schools.

"The voucher program is an illegal use of taxpayer dollars that have been set aside for public education and Colorado children," said Cindy Barnard, President, Taxpayers for Public Education in a press release. "What Douglas County is proposing lacks accountability, is inequitable, financially flawed and will hurt all Colorado schools."

Douglas County School Board President John Carson has argued that it will do the opposite however.

"We will retain a portion of the per pupil revenue to administer the program and that we will have additional funds leftover to reallocate throughout the system. This improves the budgetary situation of our school district," Carson said during a March 15 school board meeting, arguing that the vouchers will improve transportation costs. "This school board is not going to sit around like lemmings and simply respond to the budgetary situation in this state."

The motion asks the court to preserve the status quo until a ruling can be made on the constitutionality of the reallocation of state funds for 500 students to attend 19 private schools, 14 of which are religious institutions. The ACLU has called the scholarship lottery a "phantom charter school" because the district plans to count those 500 students as being within the system in order to continue receiving per-pupil funding, a combination of state and local sources.

"The Colorado constitution is clear that public funds shall not be spent on religious indoctrination, yet that is exactly what the Douglas County voucher program seeks to do," said ACLU Cooperating Counsel Matt Douglas, of Arnold & Porter LLP in a statement.