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ACLU Attacks School Choice in Colorado   June 22nd, 2011
When liberals and the ACLU attack, you know you're doing something right!       

 
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In a year when 42 states across the country are creating or expanding school choice and voucher programs, liberals and the ACLU have chosen to attack children, parents, and taxpayers in conservative Douglas County, Colorado.

An alliance of ACLU-aligned liberals--including James LaRue, Suzanne Larue, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Joel R. Schwartzman, Malcolm Himschoot, Kevin Leung, Christian Moraeu, Maritza Carrera, and Susan McMahon--filed a lawsuit against the Douglas County School Board in an attempt to prevent parents from sending their children to the school of their choice.

School Choice in Douglas County

On March 15th, 2011, a conservative school board instituted a school choice program in Douglas County.

The program allows parents to send their child to an approved school of their choice. In the case of schools outside of the school district's administration, 75% of allocated per-pupil funding can be spent by the parent on the school of their choice while the remaining 25% will remain with the school district. A student is only eligible for this program after having attended a Douglas County public school for at least one year.

Due to the structure of the program in which 25% of the per-pupil funding remains with the school district even when the district isn't providing services to the student, every student that participates in the program actually leaves the school district with more funding than it would've otherwise received. Thus, the school district's ability to fund its operations is not negatively impacted.

The program is win-win in that the district receives funds for students that it doesn't have to pay to educate and simultaneously gives parents the option of sending their children to the schools of their choice. And even though Douglas County Schools are already of high quality, competition will have a positive effect on the quality both of both Douglas County Schools as well as other schools that participate in the program. Since competition will lead to all schools striving for excellence and efficiency that may have not otherwise been required by a captive marketplace, the quality of service will increase while efficiency and competition will drive costs down--which in turn benefits taxpayers.

Liberals Attack

As was expected, liberals were not able to tolerate a program which gives parents the option of school choice. Rather than a child-centric vision focused on each student's education, they are focused on controlling education and minimizing choice and competition.

On June 21st, 2011, the ACLU-supported liberals filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the innovative program. Their legal filing may be found here.

The lawsuit will almost certainly fail since the real issues have already been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Douglas County program has many similarities to other programs that have been upheld by the Supreme Court.

The matter of funds potentially going to religious schools was settled by the Supreme Court in 2002. The majority then opined that "The incidental advancement of a religious mission, or the perceived endorsement of a religious message, is reasonably attributable to the individual recipient, not the government, whose role ends with the disbursement of benefits."

The current lawsuit is further frivolous since just months ago the U.S. Supreme Court effectively ruled that citizens do not have a right to challenge a state's specific tax policy which is effectively in question here.

While the plaintiffs make various claims, it's notable that none of them are in regards to any damage to the school district, the district's students, or the students that participate in the program and attend other schools.

Indeed, this lawsuit isn't about what's best for the children, the rights of the parents, nor the rights of the taxpayer. The lawsuit is about maintaining centralized government control of education, restricting religious freedom, and impeding constructive innovation in education.

A Lesson for Republicans

It should be noted that the school board that passed school choice was only able to do so after four of its members were elected or re-elected in 2009--thereby ending a status quo board that had been in place for years.

This happened after a bold decision by the Douglas County Republican Party to become actively involved in the "non-partisan" school board election. The county party--under then Chairman John Ransom's leadership--recognized that the only thing non-partisan means is that an "R" or a "D" doesn't appear after the candidate's name on the ballot and there is no formal primary process for each party to designate its candidate. But the reality is that school boards make decisions that are every bit as political as any other elected office and Republicans should not forfeit those boards to progressives.

The county Republican party interviewed interested candidates and its Executive Committee unanimously voted to approve a slate of candidates that went on to sweep the election--resulting in the great advances in school choice that are occurring in the county today.

The party's participation in the election raised eyebrows at the time, and the fact that the party had to choose one Republican over another even led to some internal disputes within the party. Nevertheless, the decision was unanimous and the party supported its slate of candidates.

While a few individuals may still believe that the party's participation was controversial, what can no longer be considered controversial is the fact that the party made the right choice. One of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit is one of the Republican candidates that the party wisely didn't endorse and who subsequently lost overwhelmingly. Now that Republican individual has joined with other liberals and the ACLU in a lawsuit that seeks to attack school choice--which is an important part of the Republican Party platform.

The lesson for Republicans across the country is that we must vet our candidates and we must make hard (even uncomfortable) decisions in non-partisan races. Where no primary process exists for the party to select a single candidate, the appropriate county party must become actively involved and create a process to make sure that not only are Republicans elected to school boards, but that those Republicans are actually committed to school choice and all relevant education aspects of the party platform.

The Fight Is On

As already mentioned, 42 states throughout the country are currently working on creating or expanding school choice. In Douglas County, Colorado, this effort is well underway and under attack by liberals.

If you'd like to contribute to the defense of school choice and help prevent the ACLU and liberals from interfering with parents' right to determine their child's education, please donate here.

Douglas County is currently "ground zero" in the fight for school choice. The ACLU is in the game and we must win this fight.

Please spread the word.


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