Institute for Justice Pledges to Defend Historic Colorado School Choice Program

John Kramer
John Kramer · April 16, 2003

Washington, D.C. –The Institute for Justice today pledged to defend in court Colorado’s historic school choice program, the first new voucher program since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld choice in Cleveland last June. Colorado Governor Bill Owens signed legislation today establishing the nation’s second statewide choice program.

“Colorado Supreme Court precedent is very favorable to school choice, and we are very confident that this program will withstand any legal challenge,” said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, the nation’s leading legal advocate for school choice. “We will not allow teachers’ unions and their allies to thwart meaningful education reform.”

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, and other special interest groups have already admitted that they are exploring possible legal challenges to the program. As CEA Executive Director Phil Moeckli wrote recently, “It’s not the end of the world that the Legislature passed vouchers. It’s the end of the first quarter.”

The Institute for Justice has successfully defended choice programs from such tactics in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Arizona and Illinois.

“Colorado’s low-income families will be finally set free from demonstrably failing schools and empowered to choose the best education for their children,” Mellor added. “Colorado is now the first state in the nation to take up the challenge of vindicating the Supreme Court’s promise of equal educational opportunities.”

The Colorado school choice legislation was sponsored by state Rep. Nancy Spence and passed with bipartisan support, including the endorsement of Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar. The program is targeted to low-income students in the 11 districts with “low” or “unsatisfactory” ratings on the State’s annual academic performance ratings.

In addition to helping win a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court for school choice when it represented parents participating in Cleveland’s school choice program, IJ also successfully defended vouchers in Milwaukee and tax credits in Illinois and Arizona. IJ is currently defending Florida’s groundbreaking Opportunity Scholarships program and is fighting state constitutional barriers to choice in Maine and Vermont.