Americans for Prosperity Colorado to try one last time to save voucher program in DougCo

Author: Marianne Goodland - December 4, 2017 - Updated: December 4, 2017

(BrianAJackson, istockphoto)

Is there any way to save the Douglas County voucher program from its all-but-certain demise on Monday?

Americans for Prosperity Colorado (AFP), which spent “six figures” during the election season trying to persuade voters to support the then-board majority’s reform efforts, announced Friday it would try.

David Ray, president of the Douglas County board of education, announced Tuesday the board would hold a special meeting on Dec. 4 to discuss the voucher program. A vote on the program’s future is likely to take place in that meeting.

The Koch brothers-backed organization said it would bring a “five-figure accountability push” to the south metro county “to support educational opportunity policies,” a euphemism for attempting to save the voucher program. Organizations funded by the billionaire Koch brothers — Charles and David — have long advocated for taxpayer-funded vouchers that would allow students to attend private schools.

The announcement comes just three days after four new board members, all opposed to the Choice Scholarship program, were sworn into office. It should be noted, however, that one board member, Kevin Leung, is a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the district. That lawsuit has so far blocked the voucher program’s implementation. Leung told Colorado Politics he will neither participate in the deliberations over the program nor vote on it. He will not attend next Monday’s meeting.

The board’s three other members were all elected in 2015 on a platform of opposition to reforms, including the voucher program, put in place by a conservative majority first elected in 2009.

Jesse Mallory, state director for AFP-Colorado, said in a statement Friday that the “new school board must put the needs of school children before any political belief. Ending this program before it even has a chance to succeed and provide real change in our communities would be extremely shortsighted. If the board believes they should deny children more educational opportunities, AFP-Colorado will hold them accountable.”

More than 70 percent of Coloradans support more educational opportunities, he added.

he AFP effort will reach out to Douglas County residents to “ensure they have a voice in this decision,” Mallory said. That will take the form of ads on social media and a “call to action,” which would include an opportunity to sign a petition in support of the program. That effort will continue past Monday’s meeting.

Tamra Farah of AFP told Colorado Politics that “it’s questionable” whether the new board ran on a message about the voucher program and to what extent. Farah pointed out that the candidates ran on a platform of advocating for choice.

Both slates ran on the issue of “school choice,” which seemed to mean different things to different people.

“It could be argued that there’s some confusion in the district” about the board’s intent, Farah said. “We are in favor of continuing to educate the public so they can make their own decisions related to this matter.”

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.