CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4) – Coloradans are currently casting ballots for next Tuesday’s election, and a lot of national attention is being paid to the school board races in Douglas County.
The results there will determine the fate of a landmark lawsuit on school vouchers before the Colorado Supreme Court. The lawsuit could open the door for school vouchers nationwide, or it could wind up closing it.
The pro-voucher slate of candidates vow to see the lawsuit through and the anti-voucher slate promise to end it.
The high stake implications have attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union, is the biggest donor so far in the races. They have spent $300,000 to support the anti-vouchers slate.
Luke Ragland with the right-leaning group Ready Colorado says the election hinges on school choice.
“If the union-backed slate wins, I think the reality is just that we’re going to be sapping opportunity from hundreds of thousands of kids potentially across country,” Ragland said.
“Choice has just become a word that really maybe it markets really well. Vouchers do not,” said Kelly Pointer, who has a child in Douglas County Schools. She insists the district is being used to further a political agenda, not help kids.
“There’s too much outside money and politics and agendas from all sides,” Pointer said.
The lawsuit will decide the constitutionality of an amendment adopted by 38 states including Colorado back in the 1800s. It prohibits public aid to parochial schools.
Douglas County’s voucher program — which would have allowed kids to use part of their per-pupil funding at any private school, whether religious or not — was struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court based on that amendment. But this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that ruling and ordered the state supreme court to reconsider the case.
Ragland says big change often comes from small actions.
“It was Oliver Brown’s decision to walk his daughter to the all white school across the neighborhood that resulted in separate but equal being struck down in Brown v. Board of Education. And the decision by the Douglas School Board to implement this school choice program is in many ways the similar small action that has the ability to spark massive change across the country,” he said.
“I do not understand how a public school board member would take money and divert that money from cash strapped schools to a private school,” Pointer said.