(The Denver Channel.com) CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — The Douglas County School District has approved a plan to create its own “fake” charter school in order to implement the first-of-its kind voucher program.The Choice Scholarship School has no unique curriculum and no building and the students are actually taught by private schools. The charter school will help the district track students who get the vouchers, implement standardized tests, and make sure that the program meets all state requirements. The board has appointed three parents and two community members to oversee the charter school, according to the Denver Post. Douglas County is allowing up to 500 students now enrolled in the district to receive state funding to use toward private-school tuition. The charter school would distribute to families in the voucher program 75 percent of the money the state gives the district for each student, or about $4,500. The checks would be made out to parents and sent to the school the student will attend, said district spokesman Randy Barber. The voucher plan has been in discussion since November of last year and it was approved by the Douglas County school board in March.
Groups already angry about the voucher system are critical of plans for what they call a phantom charter school. In June, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit challenging the voucher plan, claiming it violates the Colorado Constitution’s religious liberty provisions, which bar the use of public funds for religious schools. “We are asking the court to stop this misguided program before it goes any further,” said ACLU-Colorado director Mark Silverstein in a news release at the time. “We support a parent’s right to choose. The issue is that they can’t do so with taxpayer money.”
The lawsuit filed by Taxpayers for Public Education contends the voucher system violates the Colorado Constitution as well as the Public School Finance Act. Each applicant for the program had to be a Douglas County School District resident, currently attending a district school and had to be in the district for no less than one year. The Choice Scholarship Pilot Program is designed to provide the district’s students with more educational opportunities, officials said. By providing many choices both within the district’s traditional schools and through programs like this, the district said, it hopes to enable students to find educational programs that best fit their needs.
Douglas County officials said the program includes “rigorous accountability measures” and the district believes all students should be empowered to find their best educational fit. “Our district has a tradition of innovation and excellence — we will always provide opportunities that are in the best interests of our students,” district officials said.