Douglas County School Voucher Program

The Douglas County School District has tried to implement a school voucher program under the guise of “School Choice”. Unfortunately they somehow have failed to read the Constitution of Colorado or have clearly intended to violate it. I have had a letter to the editor of the Highlands Ranch Herald published and spoke to the DC school board about the issue on August 17th, 2011.

I’m going to use this page to reference my letter and my speech for those interested, and to provide other information as I see it.

First and foremost, the Constitution of the State of Colorado

and specifically:

Section 7. Aid to private schools, churches, sectarian purpose, forbidden.

Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever; nor shall any grant or donation of land, money or other personal property, ever be made by the state, or any such public corporation to any church, or for any sectarian purpose.

My letter to the editor:

School Board and Vouchers 2011

My speech to the School Board

2011_DCSD_voucher_program_statement_AugustBoardMeeting

Now for some things I keep hearing, and why they don’t make any sense:

1. Religious schools offer the choice to not attend the “religious” classes.

Answer : It isn’t about choices made within the school. It is about public money going to private secular, especially religious, institutions.

2. When children are bullied, parents must have an option, or choice, of another school.

Answer: Douglas County does have school choice. There is an open enrollment plan, you can go to a private school (but on your own dime), or you can home school. In fact, my family has twice made a choice of what school to attend to avoid bullying situations. Whether bullying, or another reason you are not getting a good education, there is choice and the opportunity to find a better option.

3. Since I pay the taxes I should get to choose where my child goes to school.

Answer: This is ignoring the whole point of public education which, in my opinion, is to ensure we have an educated citizenry. If everyone in the middle and upper classes went to private schools and took the money, we wouldn’t have a well educated citizenry because the lower classes wouldn’t be able to provide enough in tax to provide it for themselves(yikes, I sound like a liberal!)  I’m going to be a bit facetious here – If I pay taxes, and I’m not happy with how good our military is (BTW, I am, they are the best), then should I be able to get a voucher from the military to buy my own guns, bombs, missiles, etc?

4. But what about Federal law. How can the Colorado Constitution overrule it?

Answer:
The U.S. Constitution says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”
So, there can be no law at the Federal level regarding an establishment of religion, e.g. “a religious school”

With that said, the Colorado Constitution expressly forbids making “any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose”

That pretty much sums it up. I recall when someone first said that it was allowed in Indiana – I pulled up the Indiana Constitution and found a similar statement in it that basically said you can’t. You can read it too if you want to find it.

If a school could provide clear evidence that they have no religious or sectarian purpose, I would not take the school board to task, though I might talk to a Congressman about changing the Constitution (maybe, because it probably would be incredibly rare).

5. ?

Answer: If you have others let me know and I’ll post them. I still haven’t heard a valid argument from the opposition.

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12 responses to “Douglas County School Voucher Program

  1. Jed can you tell me what percent of open enrollments are granted?

    • Hi Becky,

      Thanks for the question. I don’t know the answer to that. If a school is full from within their district then I would assume an open enrollment wouldn’t be granted. I should also point out that you can open enroll in other districts too if that is an option. We considered Littleton ourselves, which according to DCSD has better achievement than Douglas County. I also want to keep in mind, that the arguments whether are irrelevant unless the constitution is amended to allow this.
      I haven’t tried this, but you might be able to get that information via request: http://www.dcsdk12.org/portal/page/portal/DCSD/Communications/Published_Materials/ORR.pdf

  2. thanks Jed, succinctly and well stated.

  3. Can you tell me how many children are on the waiting lists for charter schools in Douglas County?

  4. Lynne Butler

    Becky, you are baiting him:) Yes, there are waiting lists for the charter schools. Most neighborhood schools can take kids who want to open enroll. It also depends on which schools you want to attend and the number of kids in your family for grades available. Some schools have more openings than others. People may have to travel farther to find a different school, but they have to travel farther for a private school too.

    As Jed said, it doesn’t really matter if there are waiting lists because the whole idea of sending public money to private schools is unconstitutional. It was also noted the the BoE greatly overstepped their boundaries. This is something families should have taken up with the state, not a public school board who has no authority to make this kind of decision.

    Finally, it doesn’t matter how long waiting lists are for charter or any other schools. The fact is that 90% of the parents (and I know you are not one of them) only wanted the scholarship to send their kids to religious schools. They wouldn’t have changed to a charter school even if there were openings. Your situation is different and I acknowledge that.

  5. Thanks Lynn, well said. Just a quick addition – there was no waiting list for the charter school my daughter is attending (not the case everywhere), and you can open enroll at any DC school, not just a charter. Unconstitutional is unconstitutional, whether we like it or not, and if we don’t like it we need have an amendment.

  6. tinky2jed, yes you can open enroll at any DC school, but they are not always accepted. It is not easy to get into a charter school, and not easy to open enroll either. I agree about changing th amendment.

    • So then, if you agree it should be amended, I take it you agree this is illegal?
      Oh, and private schools can turn you down for any reason they want, public schools that are closed to open enrollment are usually closed due to the school being full.

  7. Pingback: Another question on vouchers, and my opinion | Jed's

  8. Jed, I am unable to post on Taxpayers Page so I thought I would give the information for the Indiana case here. The Indiana voucher program was NOT ruled to be unconstitutional, the judge there denied the injunction. The case, program and Blaine Amendment are very similar to that of Colorado. Here is a link to an article regarding the Indiana Ruling. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/16/indiana-voucher-program-l_n_928031.html
    http://www.indianaeconomicdigest.net/main.asp?SectionID=31&subsectionID=135&articleID=61328

    “Keele said laws approved by the General Assembly are “clothed with the presumption of constitutionality,” and ruled the plaintiffs are not likely to prevail on the merits of their constitutional claims, making an injunction unwarranted.”

    • We have to remember that Indiana is not Colorado, and my article is in regards to Colorado – I have not done as much reading on Indiana and don’t have time to; however, as I read the Indiana constitution, in my opinion, I believe it is unconstitutional there too. I recognized the point this article is making some time ago, in that you could claim you are benefiting the child not the institution, but you have to remember that the institution is making money on this and is benefiting and receiving funds (Public schools are not in the job for profit, but to benefit the citizenry). I don’t see it as a valid argument at all – they’re playing with semantics, not applying the law.

  9. Funds which benefit the student, i don’t see many private schools in it for the profit, Jed….

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