douglascountyboard The Denver Channel
The Douglas County (Colo.) school board hears public comments before voting to end a voucher program.

Douglas County (Colo.) board scraps voucher program

Program that would have allowed the use of district funds for private school tuition has been tied up in court challenges for six years.

The Douglas County (Colo.) school board has scrapped a private-school voucher program and directed administrators to halt a long-running legal battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chalkbeat Colorado reports that the board voted 6-0 to rescind the program, which was put on a hold in 2011 by a court ruling before families could use it.

The vote comes about a month after board elections saw voucher opponents take full control of the board.

“Public funds should not be diverted to private schools, which are not accountable to the public,” says board member Krista Holtzmann.

The Colorado Supreme Court, which earlier this summer was directed by the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the case, will have the ultimate say in whether the legal challenge will end.

However, the court usually does not consider moot cases, says Mark Silverstein, legal director for the ACLU of Colorado, a plaintiff in the case.

The board’s action is a setback to voucher supporters in Colorado and across the nation who had hoped a victory at the U.S. Supreme Court would set a national precedent.

The legal question at the center of the voucher debate is whether a local school district can send tax dollars to private religious institutions. A majority of the schools that enrolled in the Douglas County voucher system, known as the Choice Scholarship Program, were religious.

The Colorado Supreme Court in 2015 ruled that the voucher plan violated the state constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court gave voucher supporters renewed hope earlier this year when in a similar case it issued a narrow ruling for a preschool run by a church.

In November, four anti-voucher candidates — Holtzmann, Anthony Graziano, Chris Schor and Kevin Leung — resoundingly won seats on the board.

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