Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Colorado Supreme Court Invalidates Choice Scholarship Pilot Program

In a fragmented decision in Taxpayers for Public Education v. Douglas County School District, (CO Sup. Ct., June 29, 2015), the Colorado Supreme Court struck down Douglas County's elaborate Choice Scholarship Pilot Program. The Program creates a public Choice Scholarship Charter School to which  public funds are paid.  Then through scholarship awards 75% of those funds are shared with the Charter School student's Private School Partner (often a religiously sponsored institution) which is the student's actual school.

Chief Justice Rice wrote the Court's plurality opinion for 3 justices, concluding that the scholarship program is unconstitutional under Art. IX, Sec. 7 of the Colorado Constitution that prohibits the state from using public money to fund sectarian schools. The plurality dismissed the other challenge to the Program-- that it violates the state's Public School Finance Act of 1994-- concluding that the legislature did not intend to imply a private right of action under that law and so petitioners lack standing.

Justice Marquez concurred in the result, filing an opinion concluding that the Scholarship Program violates the School Finance Act and that petitioners have taxpayer standing to challenge the program.

Justice Eid, in an opinion joined by two other Justices, argued that the scholarship program was permissible under Art. IX, Sec. 7. In addition he argued that the court should have examined whether Art. IX, Sec. 7 of the state Constitution is unconstitutional under the federal Constitution because of the provision's anti-Catholic bias.

Fox31 reports on the decision.