The Colorado Independent | Religious groups are involved in big DougCo school board race

Churches and religious organizations are among a swarm of outside interests zeroing in on a school board election in Douglas County.

A letter by the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs asks voters to “implore the Holy Spirit to help guide you as you decide who will best protect and expand parental choice in Douglas County.”

The Colorado Catholic Conference has produced literature urging voters “to protect & expand parental choice.”

Meanwhile, a larger group, My Faith Votes, which is a national Christian nonprofit led by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, is promoting a “Christian Voter’s Guide” for the Nov. 7 election. About 25,000 copies of the voter guides went out to 77 churches and private schools in Douglas County, said Jason Yates, CEO of the group.

“Through voter’s guides, informational articles and local partnerships with churches and private schools, My Faith Votes is equipping and mobilizing Christians in Douglas County, Colorado to cast biblically-informed votes,” the group said in a statement about its work in the election.

The race has turned yet another school board election into a bitter battleground in a state familiar with the nationalization of very local politics. It could also be one of the nation’s most closely watched because of its relevance to the issues of private school vouchers. The board is currently divided 4 to 3, with a conservative majority that could flip next week.

That religious groups are wading in heavily “is not unexpected in Douglas County as the district has a private school voucher program waiting for a Colorado Supreme Court decision,” says Kallie Leyba, president of Douglas County Federation, a union that is also spending heavily in the race. “In the 2015 Douglas County school board election some religious organizations were involved as well.”

As The Colorado Independent reported in August:

The stakes are high among those watching the debate over vouchers. The district has attempted to implement a scholarship program that would grant DougCo students taxpayer-funded vouchers of about $6,400 a year to attend the private school of their choice, whether it be religious or secular, in Douglas County or not. The program has been blocked by the state Supreme Court and was appealed to U.S. Supreme Court — an effort backed by the Daniels Fund and the Walton Family Foundation, which together donated $1.8 million to pay for the legal tab. The Supreme Court recently returned the case to a lower court for further consideration. It’s unclear when a new ruling might come down or whether it would happen before the election. But if conservatives hold their slim majority, the legal battle likely would continue. And if opponents to the voucher program take just one of the four seats, the board would likely drop the voucher program altogether, rendering the legal case moot.

On one side is a slate of four candidates who oppose vouchers, and on the other is a slate of four candidates who want to see the courts rule on whether vouchers are constitutional.

“The Colorado Constitution has often been a barrier to voucher programs, like the one at stake in Douglas County,” reads a flyer by the Colorado Catholic Conference.

Representatives for the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs and Colorado Catholic Conference didn’t respond to phone calls.

“While vouchers are a big issue nationally, on the ground in Douglas County, other issues dominate this election: educator turnover, teacher pay, capital needs, and quality of education,” reports Colorado Public Radio.

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