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Education Opinion

The Douglas County School Board Election Harbinger

By Walt Gardner — November 03, 2017 1 min read

It’s extremely rare that a local school board election has national implications. But I think the outcome in Douglas County, Colorado is a notable exception (“Douglas County school board election is all about Blaine,” The Denver Post, Oct. 20).

In 2011, Douglas County adopted a Choice Scholarship Program to allow 500 students to attend a local private school. When various groups sued, the Colorado Supreme Court killed the program because of the state’s version of the Blaine Amendment. I thought the issue was dead. But if voters elect the slate that favors the voucher program introduced in 2011, its members will go on to challenge the constitutionality of Blaine Amendments.

It would be the latest example of efforts to expand parental choice to private and religious schools. Yet the outcome may not be quite as definitive as observers claim because there are other issues that Douglas County voters will be considering. I’m referring now to a former superintendent’s unpopular plan to evaluate teachers that nearly doubled teacher turnover from 10 percent in 2008-09 to almost 20 percent in 2015-16. In addition, voters will consider the loss of the district’s “accredited with distinction” status, as well as the roughly $2 million fine for bookeeping errors.

Nevertheless, I see the major issue as the existence of the Blaine Amendments that have been used to undermine school choice. I support the right of parents to send their children to schools they believe best meets the needs and interests of their own children. But I draw a clear line when school choice violates the state Constitution. If voters in Colorado want their dollars going to Catholic schools, they first need to amend their Constitution.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.