State Law Violations; Conflict with Sending Tax Dollars to Religious Schools Cited
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2011
UPDATE: On Monday, July 18, Judge Michael Martinez set a date of August 2 for a hearing on the request for a preliminary injunction to preserve the satus quo and prevent the Douglas County voucher plan from going into effect for the 2011-2012 school year.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have filed a motion for preliminary injunction, asking the Denver District Court to stop state education officials from giving state taxpayer money to fund and implement the Douglas County School District’s voucher program, which would divert taxpayer money to primarily religious, private schools.
The motion, filed late Tuesday on behalf of a group of plaintiffs who represent Douglas County parents, other taxpayers and faith leaders, asks the court to immediately end the voucher program in order to protect plaintiffs’ rights under the Colorado Constitution’s religious liberties provisions, which bar the appropriation of public funds to religious schools. The motion also argues that the voucher program violates Colorado constitutional provisions and statutes that require educational funds to pay for public education and remain under government control. It additionally describes the district’s blatant attempt to sidestep state law by establishing a phantom charter school so that state money can be received for 500 students who will actually use the money to attend private, primarily religious schools.
“We have asked the court to stop the voucher program before it goes into effect and our plaintiffs suffer serious harm,” said ACLU Cooperating Counsel Matt Douglas, of Arnold & Porter LLP. “The Colorado constitution is clear that public funds shall not be spent on religious indoctrination, yet that is exactly what the Douglas County voucher program seeks to do.”
The motion for preliminary injunction asks the court to enjoin the voucher program based on findings that the program is likely to be found unconstitutional and otherwise unlawful, and to prevent defendants — the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado Board of Education, the Douglas County School District, and others who have joined with them, from misappropriating public funds and infringing on the rights of students in Douglas County.
In the motion, attorneys for the plaintiffs ask the court to preserve the status quo until a ruling can be made on the legality of Douglas County’s voucher program.