Archive for the 'Courts' Category

June
29th 2015
Dougco Decision Brings Good News and Bad

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & School Board & School Choice

By now, my faithful readers should be familiar with Douglas County School District’s embattled first-of-its-kind 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 of last year, and could barely contain myself during oral arguments before the Colorado Supreme Court last December. It’s been a very, very long wait since then. That wait is now over, though the news is both good and bad.

The bad news is that while the court did decide that the plaintiffs lacked the standing to bring a taxpayer suit under the School Finance Act, it also ruled that the CSP is unconstitutional under Article IX, Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution. That section, frequently called a Blaine Amendment, ostensibly prohibits the state from providing direct aid to religious institutions, including religious private schools.

However, other high court rulings have found that vouchers are designed to provide aid to students, not to the religious institutions themselves. I’ll spare you the legal citations (you know how I feel about legalese) and let my big policy friends do the detailed analysis. Cato’s Jason Bedrick and the Friedman Foundation’s Brittany Corona have already started down that road, and my Independence Institute friends will do the same tomorrow.

For now, the quick and dirty is this: Both U.S. and Colorado legal precedent shows that parental choice breaks the link between government and religious institutions. If a parent chooses to send his or her child to a religious school, that’s just fine. As long as parents aren’t compelled to send their kids to religious schools, any benefit to those schools is indirect and incidental.

Apparently not concerned about this issue, a plurality (notably different than a majority) of Colorado’s justices applied a very broad “plain language” interpretation of this amendment in the full Dougco decision. This argument states, in effect, that no state money can ever be used to support and sustain a religious institution, even if that support is indirect or incidental. Continue Reading »

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June
11th 2015
Waiting for Dougco Choice Ruling? Florida, Kansas Serve Up Good News

Posted under Courts & Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

Education policy and the courts: Usually not a match made in heaven. Though often there’s a very good reason to pay close attention. Like six months ago, when I proclaimed my excitement that the landmark Douglas County school choice case finally reached a hearing at the Colorado Supreme Court.

Sorry if I got anybody’s hopes up. We’re into the summer months, closing in on the fourth anniversary of when the complaint was first filed against the Choice Scholarship Program, and here we are still waiting for the big decision from the seven justices.

Meanwhile, you can cheer up a bit at a tidbit of good school choice news from a different case: Continue Reading »

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May
19th 2015
Tuesday Twofer: More Legal Victories for School Choice

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits & Union

This year has been a big year for school choice, and a decidedly bad year for teachers unions. First, a red tidal wave surged across the country in the 2014 elections despite record union spending in an effort to stop it. Then, the school choice aftershocks started. Alabama became America’s 43rd charter state, Nevada passed a very strong scholarship tax credit program that was subsequently signed into law, and Arkansas said yes to a new voucher program for special needs kids. To round things out, Montana took a step in the right direction by passing a small school choice pilot program. Wow!

We recently talked about the NEA president’s recent comment that education policy should be left “… where it belongs: The legislature.” As I highlighted then, this is an interesting statement given a number of union-led legal attacks on school choice programs around the country (including Douglas County). I cynically posited then that I suspected the unions would challenge policies they don’t like anywhere they can win. As it turns out, they may not be able to win anywhere at all. Continue Reading »

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May
1st 2015
NEA President Reminds Us That Education Policy Belongs in Legislatures, Not Courts

Posted under Accountability & Courts & Education Politics & School Accountability & School Choice & Tax Credits & Teachers & Union

I don’t want to write about the teachers union today. I already did that this week, and it resulted in a whole bunch of grownups calling me and my friend Ross Izard ugly names. When I told Ross, he just laughed and said “If you’re catching flak, you’re over the target.” I don’t really know what that means, but I know I don’t like meanies.

Besides, I’d much rather write about the fact that the top schools in Denver are charters, or a weird math thing called Simpson’s Paradox and how it relates to the recent release of NAEP social studies scores. Even better, I’d like to just post a video of a dinosaur and leave it at that.

Unfortunately those things aren’t in the cards (today). My friend Jason Bedrick caught my attention with a tweet too fantastic to ignore this morning:

Fine. We’ll talk about unions again. I have no choice if they’re going to make it this easy. Continue Reading »

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April
20th 2015
Due to Choice Fight, Florida Adds School Board Member Choice: What Next?

Posted under Courts & Parents & School Board & School Choice & Tax Credits

If I had a nickel for every time the word choice was used on this blog, my college fund would be well on its way. (Of course, it’s not clear when or how a perpetual 5-year-old pursues postsecondary education, but that’s a conundrum to unpack on another day.) Well, it’s about time to make a few more clinks in the piggy bank.

Check out what EdFly blogger Mike Thomas’s story about a Florida official who wanted to give his fellow school board directors more choice of representation, partly because his views were not being represented on (you guessed it) choice: Continue Reading »

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March
3rd 2015
Another Victory For Choice: Alabama’s STC Program Wins the Day

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & School Choice & Tax Credits

I love to see choice win. In fact, I’m hoping that we will have a favorable ruling on the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program from the Colorado Supreme Court any day now. In the meantime, I’ll have to make due with another victory for scholarship tax credits down south.

Just this week, the Alabama Supreme Court handed down a ruling upholding the state’s scholarship tax credit program. Edu-nerds can read the full decision here, but be warned: It’s 200 pages long. Bring snacks. For everyone else, here’s the short version from Tuscaloosa News story linked above:

The justices said the law does not violate restrictions on giving public funds to private, religious schools because the tax credits go to parents and to scholarship program donors, not to the schools. They also said Republican lawmakers acted legally when they passed the bill the same night that it was introduced in a conference committee.

If you’ve heard similar language in legal decisions on scholarship tax credits before, that’s because it is one of the most important lines of defense for these programs. Money doesn’t flow from the state to private—and possibly religious—schools as it does in voucher programs. Instead, private donors receive tax credits for donating to private scholarship granting organizations that give private scholarships to kids to attend private schools. World record for use of “private” in a single sentence? Perhaps. But it serves to illustrate an important point: No money passes through the state. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons scholarship tax credit programs are so difficult for choice opponents to beat in court. Continue Reading »

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February
11th 2015
AG Slaps Down State Board Waivers on PARCC Testing

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Testing

Last month, we talked about some State Board of Education weirdness that resulted in a vote to allow districts to apply for waivers from the first half of the state’s new PARCC tests. Called the Performance-Based Assessment, this portion of PARCC is administered in March. Since then, we’ve seen some entertaining fireworks at board meetings over the issue, including a particularly fun meeting in Jefferson County that saw a board member illegally abstaining from a vote—an action ironically taken under the pretext that she could not “violate board policy or the law.” According to Chalkbeat, 10 districts have applied for the waiver.

Being the curious policy explorer that I am, I’ve had many conversations with a variety of knowledgeable adults on this topic. What does the Performance-Based assessment do exactly? What happens if we don’t take it? Does the State Board have the authority to provide these waivers? When will our new attorney general, Cynthia Coffman, issue an official opinion?

Other than a CDE statement instructing districts to “continue implementing state and federal law” until an official opinion is issued and an unofficial opinion issued by an assistant AG, the answers to these questions were usually shrugs and various interpretations of one of my favorite parent-defense phrases: “I dunno.”

Well, it looks like we now at least have an official answer to the legality question. Continue Reading »

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January
6th 2015
ESAs + Tax Credits = Grand Plan for Brighter School Choice Future

Posted under Courts & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & State Legislature & Tax Credits

I spent the last couple days of 2014 looking back. With 2015 underway, it’s now time to peer directly into the future of possibilities.

Fortunately, I have really smart people like the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke and the Cato Institute’s Jason Bedrick to do all the heavy lifting for me. (Besides, it’s especially interesting to see these two D.C. think tanks team up together.) Their piece for National Affairs, titled “The Next Step in School Choice,” has me smiling optimistically at the possibilities.

Building off the late, great Milton Friedman’s vision of “partial vouchers,” the authors remind us of the inefficiencies of the current system and efforts to overcome them: Continue Reading »

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December
30th 2014
Eddie’s Top Posts of 2014: Part One

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & International & Just For Fun & Parents & Research & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

It’s hard to believe, but another long year of being age 5 is nearly past. January doesn’t seem that long ago, but here we are again, on the brink of new calendars and check-dating confusion. The year 2015 is just around the corner. But for now, it’s time for a little reflection on some of the big Colorado education stories I’ve mused on in 2014.

What better way to wander quickly down Recent Memory Lane than to hit the highlights? I’ve picked a favorite blog post of mine on Colorado education happenings from each month, to relive a year that took us through everything from the throes of a Common Core backlash and a dramatically contrived backlash against the Jeffco school board to the initial defeat of a union-pro tenure lawsuit and the long-awaited arrival of Dougco’s Choice Scholarship Program before the Colorado Supreme Court.

Because we’re in the middle of the holiday malaise and most of you already have short attention spans to begin with, I’ve decided to break it up into two parts. Tomorrow I’ll bring you home with the second half of 2014, but today join me as we meander from January through June: Continue Reading »

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December
22nd 2014
Snow or Not, Let’s Keep Sharing School Choice Wishes for 2015 and Beyond

Posted under Courts & Denver & Governor & Independence Institute & Parents & School Choice & Tax Credits

There’s no school right now, but plenty of holiday magic in the air. And so today I’m wishing for snow so my Dad can take me out on the sled. I guess if we went up into the mountains, there’d be plenty to come by. But around Eddie’s neighborhood, it’s just a little too warm and dry right now.

Getting my wish would be fun. But even so, the snow would melt away before long, and I’d be right back to square one again. Better to focus on a wish that lasts. Like opening the doors to a better future for many Colorado kids through the power of scholarships. I’m talking about a School Choice Wish!

Last Friday the great blog redefinED kicked off its 10-part School Choice Wish series with a piece written by one of my Education Policy Center friends. Not your typical dry policy argument, but the true story of a Denver man whose life was changed for the better by a K-12 tuition scholarship, and now works full-time to make the same sort of scholarships available to more kids! It begins: Continue Reading »

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