Colorado Charter Law Funds Religious Schools, Says Denver Newspaper

Church & State, December 2006 | Go to article overview

Colorado Charter Law Funds Religious Schools, Says Denver Newspaper


An investigation by the Denver Post has uncovered several examples of tax funds flowing to religious schools through Colorado's charter school law.

The newspaper reported that Hope Co-Op Online Learning Academy, a charter school approved by the tiny Vilas School District two years ago, has established 81 learning centers across the state. About half of them are situated in houses of worship and religions schools.

The Post noted that at least 17 religious schools host Hope programs. At these programs, students work on computers for two hours a day and then attend classes at a religious school.

Throughout the state, Hope has subsidized classes at Islamic academies, Roman Catholic schools and Protestant institutions.

Colorado's charter law allows districts to authorize charter schools, even if those schools are not geographically close. The Vilas School District in rural southeastern Colorado gets $5,865 for each Hope student it accepts. The district takes a cut of $550 per student and then passes the rest to Hope.

Critics say the scheme is ripe for abuse and that the arrangement with religious schools runs afoul of state law.

Colorado Department of Education Commissioner William Moloney told the Post that if taxpayer money is subsidizing religious academies "that would be across the line, no question." But Moloney admitted, "We wish there was a clear bright line, but there isn't."

Moloney's views were echoed by Vody Herrmann, Colorado Department of Education school finance director.

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