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Douglas County’s revived school voucher program faces yet another court challenge

Douglas County parents protest the district's voucher program in 2010 (Denver Post photo)
Douglas County parents protest the district's voucher program in 2010 (Denver Post photo)

An organization opposed to the use of public money to pay for private education filed a motion Tuesday challenging the Douglas County School District’s revived school voucher program, arguing that a court injunction that halted the first version still applies.

The latest legal action from Taxpayers for Public Education, filed in Denver District Court, is the second court challenge to the south suburban school district’s School Choice Grant Program. The voucher program in its original form welcomed participation by religious schools, and the second iteration excludes them.

Taxpayers for Public Education fought a long court battle against the original voucher initiative, called the Choice Scholarship Program. The State Supreme Court found that program to be unconstitutional, and the district has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.

“The permanent injunction halted the whole Choice Scholarship Program, not just the religious schools part,” Cindy Barnard, Taxpayers for Public Education’s president, said in a statement. “As a result, excluding religious schools from the revived program does not remove that program from the scope of the injunction. The injunction against the Choice Scholarship Program very clearly covers the revived program as well.”

Earlier this spring, a conservative legal group representing three Douglas County families filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging the new-look voucher program on entirely different grounds.

The Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, which was a district ally in supporting the original religion-friendly voucher program, argues the revamped program is unconstitutional because it excludes religious schools.

In March, a divided Douglas County school board approved the updated pilot voucher program that members of the board’s conservative majority say meets the criteria of the state high court decision against the original initiative.

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