CASTLE ROCK - The wait is essentially over for the Colorado Supreme Court to make up its mind over school vouchers in Douglas County.
"Which has been floating in the ether for a long time," said Norm Provizer, a Metropolitan State University of Denver political science professor. "Remember, as soon as the act was passed, it was challenged in the courts."
In 2011, the conservative-led Douglas County school board created the Choice Scholarship pilot program to give families part of their per-pupil public funding to help pay for their tuition to private schools. But, most of the schools in the program were religious ... prompting a lawsuit.
"It touches on a basic political schism, if you will, in the United States as a whole," Provizer said. "It's not a Colorado issue. It's a national issue."
The heart of the case involves something in the Colorado state constitution called the Blaine Amendment which basically prohibits public money from going to religious schools. But, earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the legality of the Blaine Amendment in another case in Missouri.
That prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to order the Colorado Supreme Court to revisit its initial decision which shut down the DougCo voucher program.
"That was getting attention across the nation. I would find newspaper articles and op/ed pieces written in papers all around the country," Provizer said.
He says the program drew national interests because it gave voucher advocates hope. Douglas County was the only local school board in the nation to create its own voucher program. If it was ruled legal, that could've paved the way for other districts in Colorado and other states.
With the rescission of the program Monday night, Provizer says the Supreme Court doesn't usually issue rulings on issues that are considered moot.
"It closed off one foothold. That is that this has been about all along," Provizer said.
The director of Americans for Prosperity Colorado issued a statement:
“It’s disappointing although not surprising the Board opted for a short-sighted decision over providing children with more opportunities for success,” said AFP-Colorado State Director Jesse Mallory. “Since it’s introduction, this program has been met with such stiff resistance by the teachers unions and special interests. The Board owes those students an explanation as to why they are limiting their educational opportunities in favor of the status quo.”
Provizer says Douglas County may be one lost battle for voucher advocates, but the war goes on. The Douglas County School District spent $1.8 million in legal fees for this case, but district spokesperson Paula Hans says it was all donations. She says none of it was from public funding.
"People will move on and move their money elsewhere," Provizer said.
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