If It's So Urgent, Why Did ACLU & Co. Wait So Long to Stop Dougco Vouchers?

Some groups like the ACLU have their reasons for wanting to shut down the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program and take educational opportunities away from about 500 kids. Some people can’t help but be offended by other people’s choices, I guess.

Here we stand one week away from the start of a legal hearing to determine whether the legal request to enjoin the choice program should be granted. But if it’s such a big deal for the ACLU and its pals to stop families from receiving Douglas County vouchers, why did they wait so long?

That’s part of the strong argument raised by the Dougco legal team in their response to the motion for a preliminary injunction:

The evidence at the hearing will show that Plaintiffs, and the legal organizations supporting Plaintiffs, knew about the Choice Scholarship Program for months before it was ever passed. Indeed, Plaintiff Barnard was on Douglas County’s School Choice Task Force from the beginning, and she formally objected to the Program in writing and in person in February. Plaintiff Leung is a member of the District Accountability Committee, and he also objected to the Program in February. The Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a formal letter objecting to the Program on March 8, a week before it was approved by the Board. The ACLU sent a formal CORA request on April 6 asking for, essentially, early written discovery in this case. Yet these cases were not filed until June 21 and a preliminary injunction was not sought until July 5.

Why did the plaintiffs wait so long to act? It’s almost like they wanted students to start receiving their scholarships, to be filled with hope, and then to come in and throw their lives into chaos just as the new school year’s activities are getting underway:

Meanwhile, the District was and is proceeding with implementing the Program in an open and transparent process that was well-reported by the media and the District’s website. The District accepted applications, held a lottery, and notified 500 families for their acceptance in the Program. Likewise, it received applications from private schools, evaluated them, and has signed contracts with twenty-two. Eligible families withdrew their children from Douglas County schools, enrolled in partner schools, and re-arranged their lives around the Program. Given that almost every Douglas County school, traditional or charter, has long waiting lists, these spots were immediately filled by other students. Some scholarship students are taking summer school at the partner schools. Others are attending sports camps for fall teams. Parents signed contracts with partner schools and made down payments on tuition. Partner schools have made staffing decisions and arranged classes given the CSP students. The District has made initial payments to 140 students, with more occurring every day.

That’s $158,519 in 140 scholarship checks already sent out as of late last week, with the number and amount rising daily. So if they were intent on stopping this process from the beginning, why did the ACLU and company wait so long to put the legal process in motion? Did they even consider how much more disruption they would cause to families, and also to schools? How can a judge take seriously their demand that the choice program has to be shut down right away, when they took months to get into gear?

Guess some of my friends will have to pop up some popcorn and show up for next week’s three-day hearing in Denver District Court to find out an answer. Oh, come on… don’t tell me they won’t let you have popcorn in the courtroom!