The Douglas County, Colorado School Board may determine the fate of faith based school choice for the entire nation.
November 7th, 2017 will be a pivotal moment for our nation as one local school board election, in Douglas County, Colorado, may determine the fate of faith-based school choice for the entire nation.
It started in 2011 when a pilot Choice Scholarship Program was implemented in Douglas County, which allowed 500 students to use publicly funded scholarships to attend participating private schools, including faith-based private schools. The program immediately met opposition and was challenged under the Blaine Clause, found in the state constitution of Colorado and 37 other states, prohibiting state funds to be used in faith-based institutions.
In part because of Colorado’s Blaine clause, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down the scholarship program in a plurality ruling. The district then brought forward an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States earlier this year, challenging the constitutionality of the Blaine Clause. As School Choice Expert Ross Izard put it, the central question in this case is “whether the First Amendment’s religious protections prohibit the use of Blaine clauses to exclude faith-based private schools from scholarship programs simply because of their beliefs?”
The Supreme Court stopped short of ruling on the Douglas County Case but instead issued a 7-2 ruling on another similar case, the Trinity Lutheran v. Comer case. The court ruled it was unconstitutional to exclude Trinity Lutheran from public benefits simply because of their religious beliefs. They sent the Douglas County Case back to the Colorado Supreme Court for reconsideration in light of their ruling on Trinity Lutheran.
This is where the Douglas school board election suddenly has national ramifications.
Four out of seven seats on the board are up for election this year. One seat on the Douglas County school board could be the deciding vote to drop the Douglas County Case, and end real faith-based educational choice in Colorado.
Nationally, the Douglas County School Board will hold all the cards to direct the legal conversation regarding a ruling on the Blaine Clause in 38 states. Failure to put an end to the Blaine Clause and religious discrimination in Colorado could become the guiding legal precedent, prohibiting real faith-based educational choice across the country.
This is a deciding moment for education in America. It will come down to one single school board race in Douglas County.
Did you know that in 2017 nearly half of America’s 1,000 largest school districts are holding elections? Those elected school board members will represent over 10 million students throughout 34 states in the U.S. Yet, local school board elections are notorious for low voter turnout—often just five or ten percent.
We can do better, and as Christians, we have a great opportunity to bring the influence of our faith into this important responsibility of educating our kids.
We created this 3-part series on school board elections to address some critical issues that every voter should consider in their local school board election. Thanks for reading part three of our educational series! If you missed them, read the first two parts of the series, “Why Should You Care About Your Local School Board” and “Should School Choice Matter to Christians.”