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Private schools to keep Douglas County voucher students during court fight

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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

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  • comment avatar Saxon August 19, 2011

    Of course!.. since the charter schools know they are going to eventually win in the end. The anti-choice crowd can’t seem to figure out that the checks are written to the parents, NOT the schools. Just like using a GI bill at Notre Dame, etc… and that has been approved for years now.

  • comment avatar Allen E August 19, 2011

    Valor is taking the position that “its good will and generosity” will sit well with sympathetic Christians. Hope it works. If the school is willing to invest such a financial risk in those students it accepted, great.

    Ultimately, however, the program will fold, and the private schools will look for another way to circumvent the rules.

  • comment avatar Nancy E August 19, 2011

    keep fooling yourself

    the judge will not be overruled.

  • comment avatar Ja J August 19, 2011

    Oh those evil greedy private schools! The nerve actually KEEPING the kids around to milk their parents for more money rather than just kicking them to the curb and tossing them back into a public educational system. The nerve of them reducing the tuition they demand and expecting private donations to make up the difference. The nerve of them being willing to take a loss to keep these students enrolled. Don’t these greedy, selfish, evil institutions know that public educations is in the best interests of all children and they should just kick out these students if their parents can’t afford to pay the full tuition?

    (Trying to channel my inner pro-public school liberal, am I doing it right?)

  • comment avatar 64Trout August 19, 2011

    While not a fan of the voucher system, I can and do admire the schools for backing the students and shielding them from the fracas here, at least for this year.

  • comment avatar HarvyS August 19, 2011

    We voters had the opportunity to weigh in on this a few years ago.

    Voters overwhelmingly said NO to vouchers.

  • comment avatar BlindRid August 19, 2011

    I agree. The School District Board and administrators really made a bad decision on this one. Anyone else in the real world would have planned, implemented in a orderly fashion to avoid compromising the student.

    Regardless of whether for or against vouchers, the district failed and the Board Members and Administration should be held accountable.

  • comment avatar JaJ August 19, 2011

    Yeah… You do realize Teachers Unions =/= Teachers, right?

    Of course most people like the teachers, they just hate the unions. But the fact that you conflate the two is part of the problem. They do not have the same goals or aims or seek the same outcomes for our students. The former (teachers) are by and large concerned with educating the students as best they can, but also making a living from their careers (and that’s fine, I have no problem with that).

    The latter (unions) are concerned about increasing their membership and thus their dues and thus their political clout and thus their bargaining power, ostensibly, to improve the lot of their members, but also to advance their own agendas which usually involve consolidating more power and clout… Notice no where in that is there any concern for the students. Even a major figure in the Teachers Union movement said, “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.”

  • comment avatar buffsblg August 19, 2011

    Seems to be a nice gesture by some of the schools, although it also seems to indicate that if parents really want to send their kids to private schools the resources are available.

    Some folks on here clearly have not read the opinion where the judge dealt with their arguments. First of all the GI bill is a federal program, which is not confined by the requirements of the Colorado Constitution, which is the basis for the judge’s ruling. Secondly, the “we give it to the parents” argument is specifically addressed. The Colorado Constitution specifically prevents any school money going to support religious education. The Judge found based upon the testimony of the school district as well as the religious schools that religion was an integral and inseparable part of the education process at those schools. The schools refused to waive the religious requirements and demanded the right to discriminate in admissions based upon religion (as well as lifestyle and disability) and the school board went along with it. That just absolutely violated the clear language of the state constitution.

    Oh and a nice response by pst to the work of today’s insulting straw man spouting troll. I chose not to feed the troll, but I understand why an intelligent rational informed person might choose to try to rebut such garbage.

  • comment avatar GaryF August 19, 2011

    No way do I want my tax $ going to religious schools. My taxes are for PUBLIC schools! I’m a strong christian and for a few years, my child went to a Lutheran school – but I paid for that. It’s my job as an American to pay for good public schools for every child. If a parent wants to send their child to a religious school or any other private school, the parents, not the tax payers, should pay for it.

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