Private schools to keep Douglas County voucher students during court fight
Private schools that agreed to enroll students through the Douglas County district’s voucher program are standing by those students, even though a judge halted the program Friday.
Denver District Judge Michael A. Martinez issued a permanent injunction against the Choice Scholarship Program after several organizations filed a lawsuit in June, claiming it violated the state constitution because taxpayer money would be used for private and religious schools.
The program was to provide up to $4,575 each for up to 500 students to help cover private-school tuition.
Before Martinez’s ruling, the school district had cut about $300,000 in checks for first-quarter payments to 265 students enrolled in private schools in and near Douglas County. Checks will stop during the court appeal, district spokesman Randy Barber said.
Over the weekend, Valor Christian High School’s board voted to waive the three-quarters of the $4,575 it expected to receive for each of the 65 students enrolled in the Highlands Ranch school through the voucher program.
It hopes to make up the money through donations.
“We just didn’t see it being in the best interest of the students to say we aren’t going to stand with you at this late date,” said head of school Kurt Unruh.
Woodlands Academy in Castle Rock is allowing 12 students in the voucher program to stay.
Academic director Therese Martin said the school of 31 students had not cashed the checks from the district. For accounting purposes, Woodlands Academy will call the money “pending” until appeals are over.
Should the program be eliminated, the school will take the loss, she said. “We have to take that risk,” Martin said.
Private schools including Aspen Academy, Denver Christian Schools and Lutheran High School have notified the district that they will “stand behind” accepted voucher students.
Meanwhile, officials for the Douglas County School District say lawyers are going over the ruling to determine financial and other implications.
The district is working to return students who had enrolled in private school to their neighborhood and charter schools, should they take that option.
Barber could not say how many students had chosen to return to district schools.
By Carlos Illescas