Archive for the 'Courts' Category

21st 2015
Colorado Supreme Court Nixes Negative Factor Challenge

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature

We’ve been talking a lot about the courts lately. Between the Dougco voucher decision, the ridiculous silliness going on in Thompson, and Washington’s bizarre decision that charter schools are unconstitutional, there hasn’t been much cause for celebration. I’ll admit to feeling pretty darn frustrated with the courts.

Now, many of the folks on the other side of reform aisle are also experiencing some court-driven frustration after roughly a year of waiting. Today’s 4-3 Colorado Supreme Court decision in Dwyer v. State of Colorado has cemented the legislature’s interpretation of Amendment 23 to the Colorado Constitution and the “Negative Factor” it spawned. Continue Reading »

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17th 2015
Thompson Majority Fights On for Local Control

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Board & Teachers & Union

Most of you probably remember that there’s sort of a thing going on in Thompson School District. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an understatement. In actuality, Thompson now stands alongside Jefferson County as ground zero for one of the most important education battles in Colorado.

More specifically, Thompson has been engaged in an ugly fight with the Thompson Education Association, backed heavily by legal support from the Colorado Education Association, over the reform-minded board majority’s decision not to accept two junky tentative collective bargaining agreements. At the center of that fight is an incredibly important question: Can locally elected school boards be forced to accept union contracts with which they disagree?

The issue has drawn significant attention from around the state, including an editorial from the Denver Post supporting local school boards’ ability to make judgment calls under Colorado law. It has also resulted in a flabbergastingly awful non-binding arbitration report and, more recently, an unprecedented injunction ruling that forces the district to abide by the 2014-15 collective bargaining agreement—an agreement that the board has rejected in one form or another three separate times.

The board majority isn’t giving up, though. Last night, a 4-3 vote gave the district’s legal team the authority to appeal the injunction or pursue other remedies, whatever “other remedies” means in lawyerese. In practice, a favorable ruling on appeal would free the district of the collective bargaining agreement foisted on it by the Larimer County District Court and allow the board to get back to building policies to take care of its teachers in the absence of a union contract. Continue Reading »


10th 2015
Wait, What? Washington Supreme Court Finds Charter Schools Unconstitutional

Posted under Accountability & Courts & Education Politics & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & Union

I’ve got to admit, Little Eddie’s faith in judges’ ability to fairly decide education issues is beginning to fray. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I’ve moved past fraying, and that my confidence has fully fallen apart at the seams like the blanket I’ve been dragging around with me since infancy.

Back in June, the Colorado Supreme Court made a dangerously broad decision to strike down the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program. Not long after that, a retired Colorado Court of Appeals judge handed Thompson School District perhaps the most heavily flawed “legal” document I’ve ever seen after a questionable (and expensive) non-binding arbitration process related to the district’s negotiations with its local teachers union.  Then, a Larimer County District Court judge contorted herself into a logical pretzel in order to force Thompson to abide by the terms of a contract that the board has voted down three separate times in one form or another.  

But as frustrating as judges have been in Colorado this year, our problems are small compared to a jaw-dropping 6-3 Washington Supreme Court decision that charter schools are unconstitutional. I actually had to read that headline twice to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood.

Sadly, I hadn’t. Continue Reading »

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31st 2015
ACLU vs. Nevada Families: Another Big Anti-School Choice Case to Wait Out

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits

The Pope is Catholic. The sun rises in the east, and sets in the west. The grass is green, the sky is blue. And certain parties will sue groundbreaking educational choice programs that promise to help give kids more opportunities.

Two months ago, an ACLU-initiated case against the Dougco Choice Scholarship Program prevailed in the short term, while opening the door to a potential major national victory. A few weeks later, a similar program in North Carolina survived a legal assault.

Before that, the ACLU’s efforts to take away tax credits for K-12 scholarship donations was smacked down in New Hampshire, while the union and school board association in case in Florida has stumbled but lives on in the form of distorted arguments about the Sunshine State’s tax credit scholarships. Continue Reading »

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7th 2015
New Reason Foundation Video Explains Important Union-Related SCOTUS Case

Posted under Courts & Teachers & Union

Happy Friday, friends! I’ve written a lot of words this week, and I suspect you all need a bit of a reading break. You know what that means: Video time! Fortunately, the Reason Foundation has provided a great new video that will suit our needs perfectly.

Yesterday, we talked about how much teachers unions dislike being treated like everyone else—particularly when it comes to recruiting and making sales pitches. As it turns out, they are similarly disinclined to allow teachers to get out of funding them in many states, even if those teachers don’t actually belong to a union and would rather not give money to organizations with which they strongly disagree.

Frustrations with teacher tenure protections convinced public school teacher Rebecca Friedrichs that she didn’t want to support the teachers union. Yet she was still forced to pay them a bunch of money through “agency fees” after she opted out of membership. That (rightfully) made her pretty mad, and resulted in a suit against the California Teachers Association challenging the practice. The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case, called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, on the basis of Friedrichs’s 1st Amendment complaint. Here’s her story in her own words:

Continue Reading »

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28th 2015
A Tale of Two Standards? Who Can Reject a Proposed Union Contract?

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & School Board & Teachers & Union

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…. So begins one of the most famous novels of the last 200 years: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I’m too little to know what it’s all about. But the idea of making a clear and direct contrast just seemed to fit so well.

When it comes to teachers union leaders’ views, we may have a case of “binding contracts for thee, but not for me.” Double standards can be rather convenient, can’t they?

On the very same day, last Friday, two parallel stories appeared. First, from my favorite education reporter, Complete Colorado’s Sherrie Peif, about an arbitration hearing between the Thompson Board of Education and the Thompson Education Association: Continue Reading »

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23rd 2015
A Worthy Celebration of Instant Gratification: NC Court Upholds Choice

Posted under Courts & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice

Only a few weeks ago we received the long-awaited news on Douglas County’s Choice Scholarship Program. While the Colorado Supreme Court narrowly left us to wait even longer and hold out hope for something even bigger and better, today brings some news of instant gratification.

I only have a few minutes to share with you the uplifting news that North Carolina’s highest court has upheld that state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. Check out the release from the Institute for Justice: Continue Reading »

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7th 2015
SCOTUS to Hear Friedrichs Case: Big Moment for Educational Freedom?

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

After last week’s legal setback for school choice in Colorado, I found a hopeful silver lining in a path to the U.S. Supreme Court. How great is the hope? Honestly, little me doesn’t know.

But my attention was so wrapped up in that story and others, that I nearly missed the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement that it would hear another pro-freedom education case: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The bottom line? A ruling in this case could strike down the ability of teachers unions to collect forced fee payments.

In all, 10 California teachers have stepped forward to challenge coercive union power. At the heart is a brave woman named Rebecca Friedrichs, who was profiled a few months ago in the Daily Caller: Continue Reading »

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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 »


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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