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Religious Freedom

Voucher Law Struck Down by CO Supreme Court

Press Release
Nathan Richter or Laurie Boeder
People For the American Way Foundation
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Reaffirms Lower Court Decision that Lack of Local Control and Accountability Violates State Constitution

Today, the Colorado State Supreme Court declared unconstitutional and prohibited implementation of a law that would have provided private and religious school vouchers to qualifying students in Colorado. The Colorado law was the first passed in the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly decided such programs do not necessarily violate the U.S. Constitution. The Colorado court found that the voucher program violates the state Constitution’s requirement that local school districts retain control over locally raised education funds.

People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) was co-counsel in the challenge to the law brought by Colorado citizens and others.

“The Court’s decision is an absolute rebuke of the governor’s blind support for vouchers,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of PFAWF. ‘The Colorado Constitution makes it clear that local school boards must have some control over the educational programs that they help fund," said Neas. “Parents want to know that the schools their children attend are accountable for the quality of education and for student performance. The decision is a victory for the parents, students and taxpayers of Colorado.”

Colorado voters have twice rejected schemes that would have diverted public dollars to private schools. In 1992, voters rejected a proposal calling for a voucher plan. The voters rejected tuition tax credits in 1998. Nevertheless, the Colorado Legislature passed its voucher bill in the spring of 2003.

“The Legislature pushed this proposal through despite Colorado voters’ message that public monies should be used to fund public schools. The lawmakers got it wrong. The court got it right,” said Neas.

“This ruling will allow Colorado to concentrate school funding where it counts - on reforms that we know work, like reducing class size, teacher training, and programs that encourage parental involvement,” said Nancy Keenan, education policy director at PFAWF.