Contact me

These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

LaRue versus Colorado Board of Education

The ACLU website has the press release here. There have been other articles about it in the Denver Post, EdNewsColorado, and others.

There are a few facts I want to declare.

First, this is a private action, not a library action. My wife (Suzanne) and I are doing this as parents of a child at Douglas County High School. Although I am indeed the director of the Douglas County Libraries, this action and my employer are completely separate. Public servants do not sacrifice their rights to free speech and civic engagement. We are taxpayers who strongly disapprove of the rechanneling of public funds into private and religious institutions. I repeat: THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE DOUGLAS COUNTY LIBRARIES.

Second, why are we first on the list of plaintiffs (and there are many eminent plaintiffs, as you'll see in the complaint)? I don't really know. Perhaps because the name LaRue is so mellifluous. But when we agreed to be plaintiffs, we agreed to be a part of the public process.

Third, I think it's important to recite a little history here. We homeschooled our daughter through first grade, and our son through second. Suzanne and I were co-founders of the Academy Charter School, the second charter school in Colorado, and the first to be initiated by parents. A friend of mine, Laurel Iakovakis, and I were key in its adoption of the Core Knowledge Curriculum (which was subsequently adopted by many charter schools). I served on ACS's Board twice. I have served on Douglas County School District committees. I've worked on state curricular standards. Both of us (although Suzanne far more than I) volunteer for various school organizations like the Douglas County High School Band, and the DCHS International Baccalaureate program. I have written many newspaper articles about issues related to public education.

In other words, we are not opposed to educational choice, or educational reform. We are firmly committed to the support of public education, whose work is so vital to our nation. This isn't a new thing for us.

The Colorado Constitution is quite definite that public moneys shall not be spent on religious education. From my reading of early American history (as reflected in my book "The New Inquisition") the separation of church and state is a founding principle of our nation, and I fully support it. In our view, the policy decision by the School Board to launch a voucher program is illegal, inherently inequitable (taxpayers in the relatively poor Costilla County are supposed to underwrite the religious education of wealthy Douglas County taxpayers?), and profoundly destructive to the sustainability of public funding for education. It is also destructive to the rigor and consistency of education within Colorado, much less the United States of America.

Finally, please note that here, as in my newspaper columns, I don't cast aspersions on people's motives, or try to assassinate their character. I just think the idea is wrong, and should be vigorously challenged. Naturally, I don't imagine for a moment that this courtesy will be extended to me.

9 comments:

kcneel said...

Thank you, Jamie and Suzanne, for taking an active role in this battle. It will undoubtedly be arduous and likely lengthy. But it is the right thing to do and I congratulate you for standing up for your principles. You are clearly not alone in your concerns about this "scholarship program." I'm in your corner and have your back.
Good luck and thank you again.
KC Neel

Jamie said...

We appreciate that. I hope people stay focused on the issues.

SueZ said...

Jamie,
Unfortunately, you are indeed getting bashed by voucher proponents. Having said that, your blog post explains your position clearly and directly.
Are you comfortable if I publicize it to those who are dragging your name through the mud?

Jamie said...

SueZ, please. And thank you.

SueZ said...

Well, the voucher proponents have seen your blog, and it doesn't seem to make any difference to them - no surprise. They are now comparing vouchers to having religious books in the library.
I have shared this with my friends and asked them to support you. Anything in particular we can do?

emhansen said...

As always Jamie your personal integrity in this matter is exemplary. Taking a stand for your beliefs takes courage and conviction and deserves respect, even from those who might not agree with the particulars of the action.

Your commitment to education in general and your dedication to supporting school choice in Douglas County is well documented. I am sure that you and Suzanne did not come to the decision to be part of this suit lightly and I commend and thank you for your moxie.

RDBangs6849 said...

Jamie. I applaud your effort to help keep public education public. I believe that to start using public education dollars for private schools will lead to a two-tiered education system -- the best for those who have money and what's left over for everyone else. If Douglas County succeeds in this effort it could lead to the end of the kind of public education we grew up with and the kind that helped us succeed in life.

Jamie said...

Yes, I read some of those postings. But again, to keep things on the issues, here's the exact wording of Article IX, Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution: "Section 7. Aid to private schools, churches, sectarian purpose, forbidden. Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever; nor shall any grant or donation of land, money or other personal property, ever be made by the state, or any such public corporation to any church, or for any sectarian purpose." Is there something unclear about this?

Bert said...

I just went to the Douglas County Board of Education's website to try to understand their objectives in giving my tax dollars to religious schools. Each board member's statement is there, but it can't actually be read. All of them are audio only, delivered via Flash. It takes almost an hour to listen to all seven of them.

Their comments on such an important issue should be available in written form. It would be far easier for the board to write or transcribe their comments once than to require everyone else who is interested to waste so much time inefficiently listening to them, rather than reading them in a quarter to a tenth of the time.

Hmm, maybe I did learn something about their objectives from the site...

I'll stop now, before I write something inappropriate.