HUGE VICTORY: DougCo School Board Wins Appeal On Voucher Program

UPDATE: The Douglas County School Board weighs in. Their full press release after the jump.

“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.”

This morning, Freedom prevailed. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Douglas County School Board’s voucher program, also known as the Choice Scholarship Program (CSP).

The program had previously been held up after the ACLU and slew of anti-school choice organizations sued to stop the implementation of the program. The appeals court overturned that decision today stating:

We conclude that plaintiffs do not have standing to seek redress for a claimed violation of the Act, and that the CSP does not violate any of the constitutional provisions on which plaintiffs rely. Therefore, we reverse the district court’s judgment and remand the case for entry of judgment in defendants’ favor.”

A press release from the Independence Institute has more on the ground shaking decision:

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 28, 2013

Contact: Pam Benigno, Education Policy Center Director

303-279-6536, pam@i2i.org (Cell: 303-513-0590)

Appeals Court Panel Renews Dougco Families’ Hopes

Benigno: “Ruling an Important Win for Scholarship Students”

DENVER—The Independence Institute, Colorado’s leading pro-freedom policy voice, praised today’s decision to restore a groundbreaking school choice program previously struck down by a Denver judge.

The Colorado Court of Appeals today overturns an August 2011 ruling that permanently enjoined the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program. A majority of the three-judge panel ruled that plaintiffs “failed to carry their burden of proving the unconstitutionality of the CSP beyond a reasonable doubt” and that they lack standing to make their case.

(A copy of the opinion is posted here)

“Today’s ruling is an important win for scholarship students and their families,” said Education Policy Center director Pam Benigno. “This opens the door to providing students with more educational opportunities.”

The Appeals Court ruling follows oral arguments presented November 19, 2012. Judges pressed attorneys from both sides, leaving doubt as to which arguments they might have accepted. Both sides have strongly indicated they would challenge an unfavorable ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court.

“This decision vindicates the courage of the Douglas County school board and their constitutional authority to act on behalf of all students and families in their community,” Benigno said.

In March 2011, the Douglas County Board of Education unanimously approved the groundbreaking pilot choice program. As enacted, the Board provided 500 students public scholarship funds to attend one of more than 20 private partner schools. Twenty-five percent of Per-Pupil Revenue would be retained to afford a fiscal benefit to the school district.

Along with a number of local community members and school leaders, Benigno and senior education policy analyst Ben DeGrow served on the Douglas County School Choice Task Force that helped to craft a number of district policy recommendations, including for the establishment of private school parental choice. DeGrow also is chairman of the Choice Scholarship School created in 2011 to implement the program.

The Independence Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Denver. Informational resources on the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program can be found at http://education.i2i.org/douglas-county-vouchers/.

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727 East 16th Avenue · Denver, CO 80203 · www.independenceinstitute.org

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Board of Education President John Carson calls ruling a victory for kids

Douglas County, CO – The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled today in favor of the Douglas County School District (DCSD) Pilot Choice Scholarship Program.

“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.”

Passed in March of 2011, the Choice Scholarship Pilot Program will provide up to 500 Douglas County students with scholarships for the qualified private-partner school of their choice. In order to be eligible, students must be Douglas County School District residents who are currently attending a DCSD school and have been in the District for no less than one year. After an injunction was issued by a Denver District Court judge in August of 2011, following a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs, the Choice Scholarship Pilot Program was placed on hold.

The Colorado Court of Appeals’ ruling was clear in rejecting the ACLU’s constitutional claims and the statutory claims of the other plaintiffs. “We conclude that plaintiffs do not have standing to seek redress for a claimed violation of the Act, and that the CSP (Choice Scholarship Program) does not violate any of the constitutional provisions on which plaintiffs rely. Therefore, we reverse the district court’s judgment and remand the case for entry of judgment in defendants’ favor.”

Carson continued, “Douglas County provides many options for students including the finest neighborhood schools in America, a superb array of charter schools, and a world-class variety of learning opportunities. This ruling will give our students one more choice to achieve educational success and to prepare for the exciting opportunities that lie ahead in 21st century.”

The case is likely to be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Douglas County School District is Colorado’s third largest school district, serving over 63,000 students. Visit the District website at www.dcsdk12.org.

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