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Civil Liberties Groups Sue Over Voucher Plan

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) - Three civil liberties organizations have filed a lawsuit challenging a school voucher plan adopted by Douglas County.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

ACLU Colorado director Mark Silverstein said the voucher plan violates the Colorado Constitution's religious liberty provisions, which bar the use of public funds for religious schools.

The district plans to designate up to 500 children as public school students to obtain per-pupil educational funds from the state to help them pay private school tuition.

Douglas County officials said the program includes "rigorous accountability measures" and that the district believes every student should be empowered to find their best educational fit.

"Our district has a tradition of innovation and excellence -- we will always provide opportunities that are in the best interests of our students," district officials said.

A group that has intervened in support of other school voucher programs across the country said it plans to get involved on behalf of the school district south of Denver.

"Within the next few days, the Institute for Justice will move to intervene in the case," said Michael Bindas, senior attorney for the group based in Arlington, Va.

The Douglas County program is similar to others that have survived court challenges, Bindas said. The program will be found constitutional, he added, because it is neutral on religion and leaves the choice of school up to the parents.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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