Unfortunately, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a group called the Taxpayers for Public Education quickly filed a lawsuit to stop the program arguing that it was unconstitutional because many parents had chosen to use the scholarship to send their children to Christian schools. They claimed that this violated what is known as the Blaine Amendment in the state’s constitution that forbids direct government aid to educational institutions with religious affiliations.
Douglas County Schools argued that the program was not in violation of this amendment because the money was sent directly to the parents, who then chose what school their child would attend and paid the institution themselves – not the district.
Initially, District Court Judge Michael Martinez sided for the plaintiffs. The Court of Appeals found, however, that the plaintiffs “failed to carry their burden of proving the unconstitutionality of the CSP beyond a reasonable doubt” and that they lack standing to make their case.
This is a victory for all of the families involved in the program and those who may now have the opportunity to participate. I was lucky to meet a few of these families during the summer of 2011 while interning at the Independence Institute’s Education Policy Center, which was instrumental in creating and implementing this program.
Although the ALCU and the Taxpayers for Public Education say they are not done fighting, nor are Douglas County Schools, the scholarship families and all school choice advocates. For now though, I am so excited to know that these families now have a restored hope for their children’s educations.