Updated – On Aug. 29, Denver District Court Judge Michael Martinez denied the motion to stay his injunction. Read more.
Updated – The plaintiffs filed their response to the motion to stay the injunction on Aug. 24, listing their opposition. Read the motion here.
Douglas County School District and state officials have filed a motion seeking a stay of the injunction halting the district’s voucher pilot while they appeal the judge’s ruling.
The motion, filed Thursday, asks Denver District Court Judge Michael Martinez to stay the permanent injunction he issued Aug. 12 while district and state attorneys ask the Colorado Court of Appeals to review the judge’s ruling.
In the alternative, they’re asking Martinez to stay the injunction through Sept. 26, 2011, their deadline for filing a notice of appeal with the appeals court. The Institute for Justice, which represents three Douglas County families who received vouchers, also is part of the action.
Martinez’ ruling, which followed a three-day injunction hearing, shut down the voucher pilot, formally known as the Choice Scholarship Program, which would have used public money to help send 500 Douglas County students to private schools starting this month.
- Read the motion to stay the injunction
- See a copy of the letter sent to families seeking the return of voucher payments
- Read EdNews’ voucher coverage, including links to the judge’s Aug. 12 ruling
“The interests of justice favor a stay pending appeal of the injunction, as evidenced by the substantial public impact of the permanent, mandatory injunction issued just as the school year begins for the nearly 500 scholarship students, private schools and public schools,” reads the joint motion to stay the injunction.
Mark Silverstein, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado, one of the plaintiffs that sought the injunction, said the plaintiffs oppose the motion “for the same reasons we asked for the injunction.”
He expects a response to be filed next week.
In a news release, district leaders say they believe “the Choice Scholarship Program will be vindicated because it was patterned after similar programs upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court and other state courts.”
Martinez, in his 68-page ruling, found the pilot violated five provisions of the Colorado Constitution, including the prohibition against public funding of religion, as well as the state School Finance Act.
Also on Friday, district officials sent parents a letter asking them to return any voucher payments they received before the injunction was issued. District spokesman Randy Barber has said about $300,000 in voucher payments was sent out to some 265 families, representing the first of four quarterly payments of a voucher worth a total of $4,575.
Checks were made out to parents but parents could only endorse them to the private school in which their student was enrolled. A letter also is going out to the private schools to notify them that the district wants the money returned.
It’s still unclear how many of the 500 voucher students will be returning to district schools and how many will stay in their new private schools. Barber said the district may release numbers next week.
In addition, Dougco officials on Friday said $52,383.10 has been donated to a legal fund set up in March to cover court challenges to the voucher pilot. To date, $33,396 has been spent on litigation.
In response to an open-records request filed by Education News Colorado, the district released a list of donor names and amounts. The list includes 28 names with donations ranging from $1 to $50,000, the latter given by oil and gas developer Alex Cranberg, a longtime advocate for vouchers in Colorado.