In a nationally significant case involving religion, taxpayer dollars and school choice, a divided Colorado Supreme Court on Mondayrejected the Douglas County School District's groundbreaking school voucher program as unconstitutional.
The wealthy suburban district's Choice Scholarship Program, which aims to use taxpayer money to send children to private schools, has been at the center of a four-year legal battle.
School district officials strongly indicated they would likely ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case and pledged to seek a legal way to proceed with the voucher program as early as this fall.
More than nine in 10 students in the program — put on hold in 2011as the first 304 students were to enroll — chose religious schools.
In a split decision on the constitutionality question, the state's highest court found the program conflicts with "broad, unequivocal language forbidding the State from using public money to fund religious schools."
The court wrote: "... this stark constitutional provision makes one thing clear: A school district may not aid religious schools."
That, the court held, is precisely what the voucher program does. Chief Justice Nancy Rice wrote in the court's opinion that it "essentially functions as a recruitment program, teaming with various religious schools" to seek scholarship candidates.