Religious schools get another chance at state funding in Colorado

Two years ago, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down a program that allowed public money to indirectly fund religious schools in Douglas County. Now that program will get another look.

Inside the Colorado Supreme Court room at the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Inside the Colorado Supreme Court room at the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) colorado supreme court; justice; law; civic center; denver; kevinjbeaty;
Inside the Colorado Supreme Court room at the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Two years ago, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down a program that allowed public money to indirectly fund religious schools in Douglas County, the suburban area that includes Lone Tree and Castle Rock.

Now that program will get another look. The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered that the high Colorado court take up the case again, as the Associated Press reported.

The state’s third-largest school district had allowed parents to use public-money vouchers to pay tuition at private religious schools. The program was open to all students, not just the low-income families that typically benefit from voucher programs.

The Colorado Supreme Court found that the program violated the state constitution by providing aid to religious institutions.

The program was put on hold back in 2011, before its first participants could start at their new schools.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decisions have cheered supporters of the voucher program, as Nic Garcia reported for Chalkbeat. On Monday, the justices ruled that churches could not be excluded from a state grant program for playground surfaces that was open to other charitable organizations.

The policy was based on a provision of the Missouri constitution that prohibits public money from going to religious institutions. The high court ruled that the exclusion violated the First Amendment rights of churches, at least when the money is meant for non-religious purposes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.