Summer break was exciting for school choice!
It has been a long summer break, but I’m back watching over education in Colorado! And, oh my, what a summer it has been for school choice!
On June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 7-2 in favor of tire scraps.
Huh? Tire scraps?
That’s right, tire scraps.
A private, church-affiliated preschool in Missouri applied for the provisioning of tire scraps for playground resurfacing under a state grant program, but was turned down because of their church affiliation under the Missouri State Constitution’s Blaine clauses. The school challenged the decision in court. The case, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, made it all the way to our country’s high court, which decided that First Amendment freedom of religion rights supersede the discriminatory Blaine clauses of Missouri’s State Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision means that just because the preschool was affiliated with a church, that should not prevent them from being eligible for the State’s tire scrap grant program.
Okay, why should Colorado care about tire scraps in Missouri?
In light of this ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to rule on another Blaine-related case—the case regarding Douglas County School District’s Choice Scholarship Program (CSP).
Let’s back up for a moment. In 2011, a Denver District Court judge placed an injunction on the CSP. The decision was overturned by the Colorado Court of Appeals in 2013. That decision was petitioned to the Colorado Supreme Court, which struck down the CSP 4-3, with three of the four justices in the majority citing Blaine clauses. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Moving back to this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision on the CSP, ordering the Court to reconsider the case given the Trinity Lutheran ruling. The case was then sent back down to the District Court. Why exactly? It’s hard to say. Could this be a political maneuver to test the will and ability of the plaintiffs to see the case through? Perhaps we’ll never know.
And that’s where things stand now. School choice advocates are anxiously awaiting the ultimate ruling on the CSP which may take several months…
…which brings us to yet another obstacle: school board elections are just over two months away, and the current majority on the Douglas County School Board that supports the ongoing case is in danger of being voted-out in November. In fact, if they lose just one seat out of the four that are up for election, the Board may flip.
The importance of the Douglas County School District’s ongoing commitment to the pursuit of the CSP case cannot be understated. I will be keeping a close watch on the upcoming election, knowing that it is perhaps the most important election related to school choice in our country’s recent history.