ON-Lion Letter

In December, the Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case about the future of a popular school-choice program in Douglas County, Colo.  The county's Choice Scholarship Program was adopted by the Douglas County Board of Education in March 2011 to "provide greater educational choice for students and parents to meet individualized student needs."  The program operates in a straightforward manner, providing 500 scholarships that parents can use to send their children to any private school that participates in the program and that has accepted the child.

The program was challenged right away in 2011 by a variety of organizations hostile to school choice, but in 2013, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the program as constitutional and reversed an August 2011 trial-court decision that had struck down the program.  The appeals court held that the program "does not violate any of the constitutional provisions on which" it was challenged.

"We intend to win a similar victory before the Colorado Supreme Court for families who simply want the right to choose the schools that are best for their kids," said Michael Bindas, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice (IJ) in Arlington, Va.  Substantially supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, IJ represents Douglas County families who are defending the program in the litigation.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals explained that the scholarship program "is intended to benefit students and their parents, and any benefit to the participating schools is incidental."  Moreover, the court stressed that the program "is neutral toward religion, and funds make their way to private schools with religious affiliation by means of personal choices of students' parents."

"Neutrality and private choice are the hallmarks of a constitutional school choice program and the Choice Scholarship Program satisfies both of those requirements," according to Bindas.  "It empowers parents to choose the schools that are best for their children."

"From Arizona and Colorado, down to Louisiana, up to Indiana, New Hampshire and beyond, school choice programs are providing greater and greater parental control of education, just as it should be," said IJ president and general counsel Chip Mellor, a Bradley Prize recipient.  "No one knows better than parents which type of education will best serve their children.  School choice programs give parents the means to secure a quality education for their children."

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