Colo. Supreme Court Rules Against School Vouchers

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled against a school voucher program that would have funneled large sums of public funds into religious and other private schools.

In a 4-3 decision June 28, the state's high court said the school voucher law violates a section of the state constitution that requires local school boards to maintain significant control over funding of district schools.

In spring 2003, Americans United, along with local branches of the ACLU, the NAACP and other public interest groups, brought suit against the voucher law on a number of state constitutional grounds.

"This is a great victory for public schools and the taxpayers," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "Public funds should never be diverted to religious and other private schools that don\'t have to answer to the people. The decision strongly stands for the right of local school boards to direct funding and management of their schools."

The majority of the Colorado Supreme Court in Owens v. Colorado Congress of Parents concluded that the Colorado Opportunity Contract Pilot Program subverted the state constitution\'s mandate for local control of public schools.

"By denying local districts discretion to allocate their locally-raised funds, the program not only violates the clear mandates of our cases construing article IX, section 15, but also undermines the basic rationales of our state-wide school finance system: effectuating local control over schools," Judge Michael L. Bender wrote for the majority.

Voucher advocates in the Colorado legislature have vowed to introduce new legislation designed to go around the court ruling.