Court overturns block of Douglas County Schools school voucher program

The Colorado Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court ruling blocking one of Colorado's first school voucher programs.

The appeals court said Thursday the Douglas County Schools Choice Scholarship Program does not violate the state Constitution.

“This is incredibly positive news and a huge victory for the students and parents of Douglas County,” said DSCD Board of Education President John Carson.  “We know that each student learns differently, and our goal is to provide every parent with the opportunity to choose the best possible educational environment for their child.”

Denver District Judge Michael Martinez blocked the voucher program in August, saying it was a disservice to the public interest for taxpayers to pay tuition for religious schools. Martinez ruled the program violated the state's constitution and school-financing act.

The school district argued that the Colorado Supreme Court has previously upheld programs that use state money for education and private institutions.

The program offered up to 500 students $4,575 in state funds for tuition at mostly religious, private schools.

More than 200 students got voucher money from the county before the program was put on hold.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union say they plan to file an appeal before the Colorado Supreme Court.

"While families have the right to decide where their children should attend school, the state cannot finance religious education at private institutions," Heather L. Weaver, staff attorney for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, said in a written statement. "Public education funds should be used to help improve our public schools, not to promote religion in violation of the state constitution."

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