ON-Lion Letter

In an unfortunate setback for the right of parents to choose the schools that are best for their children, the Colorado Supreme Court held Douglas County's innovative Choice Scholarship Program unconstitutional under the Colorado Constitution in late June.  The program provided 500 scholarships that parents could use to send their children to the private school of their choice, including a religious school.

According to a plurality of the court, it violates the Colorado Constitution, which prohibits government from making appropriations "in aid of any church or sectarian society ... or to help support or sustain any school ... controlled by any church or sectarian denomination."

"The Colorado Supreme Court's decision is a blow to all Douglas County families -- indeed, all Colorado 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), which represented three Douglas County families in defending the Choice Scholarship Program.  "Douglas County tried to give its families every opportunity for the best possible education and the Colorado Supreme Court just took one of those opportunities away."

The Colorado Supreme Court's decision is a rarity in striking down a school-choice program.  In fact, there are currently school-choice programs on the books in more than half the states, and IJ has a long history of successfully defending such programs from legal attack.

"From Arizona and Nevada, down to Alabama and 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 Bradley Prize recipient Chip Mellor, IJ's president and general counsel.  "While today’s decision is a setback, the momentum is clearly on the side of choice.  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 kids."

IJ, which is substantially supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and others are considering appealing the Colorado decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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