Colorado Judge Approves Parents’ Intervention To Defend School Choice Program

John Kramer
John Kramer · May 30, 2003

Washington, D.C. –A Colorado judge late yesterday granted a request by 12 Colorado families to intervene in a teachers’ union and interest group lawsuit challenging the State’s new parental choice program. The families, represented by the Institute for Justice, the nation’s leading legal advocate for school choice, intend to use the Opportunity Contract program to send their children to private schools. Judge Joseph E. Meyer III of the Denver District Court granted the intervention.

“We are very pleased that Judge Meyer decided so quickly that parents and children who intend to use Opportunity Contracts deserve to have their voices heard,” said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice.

Colorado’s Opportunity Contract program is the nation’s first new voucher program since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld choice in Cleveland last June. Opportunity Contracts are targeted to low-income students in the 11 districts with “low” or “unsatisfactory” ratings on the State’s annual academic performance ratings. The Colorado lawsuit could help set a national precedent on the constitutionality of parental choice under state constitutions.

Last week, lawyers for the Colorado Education Association, the National Education Association and other special interest groups filed a lawsuit attempting to block parental choice in Colorado. The unions and their allies contend that the program violates the Colorado Constitution by using public funds to support religious institutions—even though parental choice funding supports the education of children, not institutions.

IJ represents 12 Colorado families in its defense of Opportunity Contracts. Six of the families are from Colorado Springs, and six from Denver—all hope to use Opportunity Contracts to secure a better education for their children than they currently receive.