Colorado Schools File Suit Against ‘School Choice’ Provision in Foster Care Transportation Law

Six Colorado school districts, two education associations and two private citizens are pushing back against a new state law aimed at improving school transportation for students in foster care.

HB 18-1306 was signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in June and set aside $2.9 million to ensure students in foster care have transportation to their so-called schools-of-origin, referring to where they were enrolled at the time they entered foster care. The state law helps Colorado comply with the foster youth transportation requirements of the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, which many states have struggled to implement. To date, the Colorado law is the largest appropriation of funds for that purpose by any state.

The lawsuit filed August 6 states that one of the law’s provisions, Section 7, allows students to be moved from one district to another without the consent of districts and without limiting that option to students in foster care. From Section 7 of the bill:

The board of education of a school district may furnish transportation: (c) To and from public schools for any reasonable classification of pupils enrolled in the schools of the district who are residents of any other school district; A board may reimburse a parent or guardian for the expenses incurred by such parent or guardian in furnishing transportation to and from a public school or designated school vehicle stop for his or her child or children and for other pupils enrolled in the schools of the district.

In other words, the law encourages “school choice” and makes it harder for districts to hang onto state education funds that follow students from school to school. The plaintiffs also state that Section 7 was added to HB 18-1306 at the last minute and without the knowledge of or input from Colorado education advocates and experts.

In a statement released in June, Hickenlooper expressed concerns about that section as well as the fact that the bill included provisions on multiple subjects not named in the bill’s title, which goes against the state’s constitution.

Cathy Kipp, a Poudre School District board member and plaintiff in the suit, told The Coloradoan that she expects the legal matter to be resolved quickly. State Senator Dominick Moreno (D), who sponsored the bill, said in an email to The Imprint that the lawsuit will not slow down the implementation of HB 18-1306.

The plaintiffs listed in the suit include Kipp, Jeffco Superintendent Jason Glass, Poudre School District, Arapahoe County School District, Sheridan School District, El Paso County School District, Monte Vista School District, Jefferson County School District, the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado Association of School Executives. Defendants listed are the State of Colorado, the Colorado State Board of Education, Colorado Commissioner of Education Katy Anthes and Gov. Hickenlooper.

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