Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Colorado's high court hears school voucher case

By: The Associated Press
December 10, 2014 Updated: December 10, 2014 at 9:59 pm
0
photo - Michael McCarthy, center, representing Taxpayers for Public Education group speaks during oral arguments at the Colorado Supreme Court in the Douglas County vouchers case in Denver on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. The Colorado voucher program that provides money for students who attend private schools, including religious ones, is at the center of a debate over the separation of church and state. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, RJ Sangosti)
Michael McCarthy, center, representing Taxpayers for Public Education group speaks during oral arguments at the Colorado Supreme Court in the Douglas County vouchers case in Denver on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. The Colorado voucher program that provides money for students who attend private schools, including religious ones, is at the center of a debate over the separation of church and state. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, RJ Sangosti) 

DENVER — The question of the separation of church and state came before Colorado's Supreme Court Wednesday with arguments about a school voucher program that provides money for students to attend private schools, including religious ones.

Opponents of the program in Douglas County told justices that the vouchers violate state constitutional provisions barring the use of taxpayer money to fund religious schools. The case stems from a lawsuit filed by parents and groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and Taxpayers for Public Education.

Matthew Douglas, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, argued that the Colorado Constitution says "specifically that school districts cannot pay any money to any school controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever."

Supporters of the program told justices the vouchers simply provide parents a choice of where to send their children to school.

They say the program does not harm other students and doesn't take away funding from public school districts, like opponents have argued.

"There is not a nickel from this program that is being diverted from any other school district," said James Lyons, an attorney for the Douglas County School District and its board of education. He said parents can choose to use the vouchers for a school of their choice, and if not, the funds "stay in the Douglas County school system."

The Douglas County voucher initiative, called the Choice Scholarship Program, offered up to 500 students about $4,600 each in state funds for tuition at private schools.

Michael Bindas, another attorney defending the voucher program, said at issue is the rights of parents who want a religious education for their children.

"The equal protection clause prohibits government from making it more difficult for one class of citizens than from all others to seek aid from the government," he said.

The Colorado Supreme Court will issue a ruling later.

A lower appeals court upheld the voucher program last year. That ruling was appealed.

Michael McCarthy, an attorney for the plaintiffs, insisted that the program is detrimental to public schools.

"The injury here is the depletion of a limited fund of moneys that come to these schools from the state in order to fund public education," McCarthy.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

Some news is free.
Exceptional journalism takes time, effort and your support.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.