12th 2014
BFFs of the Court: Chiming in for Choice in Douglas County

Posted under Courts & Innovation and Reform & School Choice & School Finance & Suburban Schools

Court briefs are terrifying to kids like me. They are long, complicated, and governed by a system of rules in which words like “pagination” and “certiorari” are commonplace. And, in a cruelly ironic twist, they are anything but “brief.” Worse still, they have absolutely no pictures. To be honest, I look at most legal briefs as potential stockpiles of spit wad ammunition, not worthwhile entertainment reading.

That said, when someone files a legal brief aimed at supporting increased educational choice, it’s hard not to take notice. Such is the case this week.

Back on August 4, my friends at the Independence Institute and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice filed an amicus brief on behalf of Douglas County School District in the ongoing litigation over its pilot Choice Scholarship Program. As you may remember from one of my previous posts, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear the case after an appellate court overturned a lower court’s initial ruling against the program.

As David Kopel, the brief’s filing attorney, outlines in a recent blog post, this particular amicus brief is heavily focused on Choice Scholarship Program’s design and the empirical evidence on voucher programs in general.

While this represents a somewhat different tack than most amicus briefs take, the Independence Institute and Friedman Foundation brief was written to provide an evidentiary counterbalance to amicus briefs filed by the Colorado Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

In particular, the Independence Institute and Friedman Foundation brief argues that the Choice Scholarship Program is responsibly designed as a pilot program, fiscally sound, and unlikely to result in the cataclysmic harms outlined by CEA and AFT in their briefs. It also reviews the best available empirical evidence on voucher programs in the United States.

Overall, this research finds that vouchers help some students and have no effect on others. There is no empirical evidence that vouchers harm students who use them, nor is there any indication that Douglas County’s pilot voucher program would harm students who remain in DCSD’s excellent public schools.

None of these arguments is directly related to the actual constitutional issues of the case. However, they will (hopefully) allow the justices to make well-informed legal rulings without being swayed by lopsided information on the policy side of the debate. This is critically important; the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling on the program could have implications both in Colorado and around the nation.

Do you want my two cents? I’m only five, but even I know that more choice is preferable to less. Can you imagine a world with only vanilla ice cream? Or only one flavor of Slurpee?  I know I can’t.

On a more serious note, every child and every family is different. They have different priorities, interests, and beliefs. They also have different educational needs that are not always met by the public school system. If we can provide valuable educational choices to the students and families who need them without harming others, don’t we have an obligation to do so?



7 Responses to “BFFs of the Court: Chiming in for Choice in Douglas County”

  1. Ed is Watching » One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: A Setback for Choice in North Carolina on 22 Aug 2014 at 3:13 pm #

    [...] I mentioned a couple of weeks ago while discussing an Independence Institute/Friedman Foundation amicus brief in the Douglas County Choice Scholarship [...]

  2. Ed is Watching » Rubric’s Cube: Understanding Colorado’s Recent Voucher Grade on 27 Aug 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    [...] up in legal proceedings and awaiting its day before the Supreme Court. As you may remember from one of my previous posts, Douglas County recently received support in the form an excellent empirical amicus brief filed [...]

  3. Ed is Watching » Power to the Parents: Colorado Comes in 12th in CER Report on 03 Oct 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    [...] local level. Just look at Douglas County, where the Independence Institute and Friedman Foundation recently filed an amicus brief to defend the district’s Choice Scholarship Program from amicus attacks by both the Colorado [...]

  4. Ed is Watching » Dougco Shakes It Up Again By Earning State’s Top Accreditation Rating on 14 Nov 2014 at 11:06 am #

    [...] though there have been opportunities of late to talk about my Education Policy Center friends chiming in to the courts on the Choice Scholarship Program, and more recently on the tools the district has made available [...]

  5. Ed is Watching » Can’t Contain My Excitement: Dougco Case Reaches Supreme Court Today on 10 Dec 2014 at 9:56 am #

    [...] not just for my Education Policy Center friends and all their hard work — including their well received amicus brief. Nor is it even just the voices of Dougco parents speaking out for school choice, as Castle Rock [...]

  6. Ed is Watching » Little Eddie’s WednesdayTriple Play: Dougco, School Choice, and Accountability on 15 Apr 2015 at 4:05 pm #

    [...] County, who you will remember we’ve talked frequently about in recent months. Back in August, I highlighted an amicus brief co-authored by my edu-buddies Ben DeGrow and Ross Izard in support of Douglas County’s local [...]

  7. Ed is Watching » Dougco Decision Brings Good News and Bad on 29 Jun 2015 at 4:39 pm #

    [...] local voucher program, the Choice Scholarship Program (CSP). I was super excited about an amicus brief written by my friends at the Friedman Foundation and the Independence Institute way back in August [...]

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