The Latest Scheme to Force Colorado Taxpayers to Pay for Private, Religious Schools
The ACLU of Colorado opposes and our state constitution bans the funneling of public school money to private, religious schools. We have fought private school vouchers in Colorado, most recently when the Douglas County School Board tried for years to implement the “Choice Scholarship Program,” a scheme that would have granted a select few parents a voucher to pay some of the tuition that was needed to send their kids to exclusive private schools, almost all of which were religious. The program was rejected by the State Supreme Court and became so unpopular with Douglas County voters that, last November, they elected a new school board that ran on a promise to disband it.
As the Douglas County election showed, school vouchers are becoming increasingly unpopular as voters learn more about them and the harm they do to kids in public schools. So, their proponents are now trying to rebrand them. Their latest scheme is called “Education Income Tax Credits for Nonpublic School” aka Senate Bill 18-083, which is now moving through the state legislature.
But a voucher by any other name is still a voucher if it subsidizes private school tuition with taxpayer dollars.
Senate Bill 18-083 “establishes a private school tuition income tax credit…that allows any taxpayer to claim a credit when the taxpayer enrolls a qualified child in a private school or the taxpayer provides a scholarship to a qualified child for enrollment in a private school.”
Sound familiar? Education experts call them neo-vouchers and back-door vouchers, but it is the same private school voucher program that the Colorado Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional and that voters in Douglas County overwhelmingly rejected, only SB 18-083 would spread it statewide.
Just like the Douglas County voucher scheme, tuition tax credits would be used to fund schools that require religious tests, oaths, and teach a single religious point of view. Schools that would benefit from this legislation are not held to the same standards as public schools. They can reject children with physical and developmental disabilities and discriminate against children who already struggle with being treated differently.
As a parent of two public school students in Douglas County, I helped fight the voucher program from the start because vouchers defund public schools and threaten a student’s right to a fair, appropriate and equitable public education. I have watched as funding has dwindled in our public schools leading to a loss of programming and high quality teachers fleeing the profession. School vouchers in any form, whether they be tax credits, education savings accounts or the type of program voters rejected in Douglas County, take money from a system that is starving. The vast majority of parents in Colorado choose a high quality public education for their children. Tax credits harm that choice.
Parents are free to send their kids to private, religious schools if they wish, but Colorado taxpayers should not be forced to pay for it. This latest tax credit scheme forces us all to pay for private, religious schools across the state, and the legislature should reject it.