By Shaun Boyd

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Douglas County’s newly elected school board voted to end the district’s controversial private school voucher program during a public hearing Monday night.

The program is the subject of a landmark lawsuit before the Colorado Supreme Court.

The school district created the voucher program seven years ago but never implemented it because of the lawsuit. The new board has vowed to abolish the program but it’s unclear what will happen to the lawsuit.

“It has always been my belief that public school funding is for public school education,” David Ray, President of the Douglas County School Board of Education, said in a statement. “I respect every parent’s right to choose a public or private education for their child. However, as a public school system our taxpayers should expect us to spend solely on educating our 68,000 plus students who have chosen Douglas County schools.”

The Resolution passed Monday night outlines three steps to this revocation:

  • Rescind the Choice Scholarship Program
  • Repeal all district policies specifically related to the Choice Scholarship Program and the School Choice Grant Program
  • Direct the Board President and/or Interim Superintendent to end the litigation challenging the Choice Scholarship Program in a cost-efficient and timely manner

The resolution takes effect immediately.

ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said the group applauds the board for “ending the unconstitutional and divisive private school voucher program.”

However, the court may decide to proceed with it anyway. The suit has national ramifications.

Cindy Barnard with Taxpayers For Public Education says the vouchers hurt cash-strapped public schools.

“Public school dollars are meant to be spent and fund our public schools and we are a state that’s already under funding our students,” Barnard stated.

The State Supreme Court ruled the vouchers violate a constitutional provision barring public dollars for religious schools. But, the U.S. Supreme Court – which ruled in favor of a religious school in a similar case – ordered the state court to reconsider its decision.

“I don’t think it’s about which schools win or lose but whether a family has an additional option or one less option,” says Luke Ragland with the pro-voucher group ReadyCO.

He says the issue is bigger than one school district.

“The highest court in the United States said important constitutional questions are at play here… and if it goes away left without clear understanding parents want more education options,” Ragland stated.

Barnard says she’s not giving up the fight either, “We would like to see stopped across country it’s our public system cornerstone of our democracy.”

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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