Big money stepped up to the plate in the fight to defend the Douglas County School District voucher program. On Aug. 30, the Daniels Fund announced …
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Big money stepped up to the plate in the fight to defend the
Douglas County School District voucher program.
On Aug. 30, the Daniels Fund announced it awarded the district
$530,000 to help pay legal costs to support the ongoing legal
defense of the program.
The decision reflected the wishes of cable television
entrepreneur Bill Daniels, who established the Daniels Fund in the
years before his death, said Peter Droege, Daniels Fund spokesman.
The fund launched in 2000 and the amount dedicated to the school
voucher program is part of $7.5 million in grants approved in late
August at the quarterly board meeting. The decision to support the
Douglas County School District’s effort to advance a choice
scholarship program reflects Daniels’ wish to support school
vouchers, Droege said.
The school district in March approved the school choice
scholarship pilot program for parents wishing to send their
children to private schools. Qualified recipients receive 75
percent of their student’s state-issued per-pupil funding to spend
on tuition at a participating private school, including religious
The same day the district approved the program, it established a
school choice scholarship legal defense fund for donations toward
any legal challenge. The legal challenge came in June from the
American Civil Liberties Union and the Taxpayers for Public
Education, which argue the program is unconstitutional. In August,
a Denver District Court judge put a stop to the program in a
decision the district vows to appeal.
The decision forced the district to ask for the return of about
$300,000 in scholarships already distributed, and by Aug. 19 the
legal defense fund had received contributions of nearly $54,000.
That amount included a $50,000 donation by oil executive Alex
The Daniels Fund contribution mirrors Daniels’ outspoken support
of education reform. Daniels left instructions to fund vouchers,
charter schools and innovative efforts to improve the public or
private school system, Droege said. The Daniels Fund donation is
part of $38.4 million in grants and $11 million in scholarships the
fund intends to distribute in 2011, Droege said. The fund awards
grants in a four-state region of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and
Wyoming. Funding recipients include education reform, aging
programs, alcoholism and substance abuse, amateur sports,
disabilities, youth development and homeless and disadvantaged
At the time it made its contribution to the school district
choice scholarship legal defense fund, the Daniels Fund also named
recipients that included Colorado Succeeds, the Denver Hospice,
KIPP Colorado Schools, Arc Thrift Stores, Open World Learning,
Positive Coaching Alliance, Project Angel Heart, Ricardo Flores
Magon Academy, Urban Peak Denver, Volunteers of America and West
The school district, which has spent more than $80,000 in legal
fees to design the program, welcomed the Daniels Fund contribution
for the coming legal battle.
“We are extremely grateful to the Daniels Fund for their very
generous contribution,” said Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, Douglas
County School District superintendent. “We are committed to the
success of our students and like the Daniels Fund, we believe in
choice and we believe strongly in the choice scholarship pilot
program. These dollars will allow us to support our students
without using taxpayer dollars.”
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