November
8th 2010
Local Buzz Growing Around Douglas County School Choice Reform Proposals

Posted under Denver & Journalism & Parents & PPC & Private Schools & School Choice & Suburban Schools

Update, 11/9: Douglas County’s choice proposals have been noticed east of the border (the Colorado border, that is). A blogger at Kansas Education notes:

…why are so many private schools religious ones? The answer. As a parent, you’re probably already paying taxes to support a school district to which you can send your child. What’s going to motivate you to pay tuition on top of that? Religious faith is one compelling reason.

Let parents take some of the money spent on behalf of their child to a private school, and you’ve expanded the range of choices for those parents. Isn’t that a good thing? Most Americans like having more choices rather than fewer.

Update, PM: A great resource I overlooked is this Douglas County Choice Task Force FAQ sheet (PDF). Find out why the task force exists, what it’s been up to and what’s coming next.

I’d like to think it was my Friday blog post about Douglas County’s private school choice proposal that fired up everyone. While I may be just a little tyke, I’m not that naive! Anyway, let the discussion (and the good times) roll….

On Saturday the Denver Post‘s Jeremy Meyer followed up with a second straight front-page piece, more favorably balanced than the first. It also shed some more light on the discussion, including some informed national perspective:

Douglas County could be the first wealthy, high-performing district to introduce vouchers, said Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute.

“It’s unusual,” he said. “If families in Douglas County right now find themselves being asked to send their children to public schools that are promoting values and norms they find offensive, if we allow them a way to be satisfied with their kids’ education, it strikes me as an eminently sensible way to approach the problem.”

Good to see the venerable Rick Hess weigh in. Still, some will declare that Douglas County’s choice proposal is a sign that the sky is falling. Fortunately not the major voices on the state’s largest newspaper. Denver Post columnist Vince Carroll dispels the anti-choice mythology, while the editorial board welcomes the debate and says: “Why not talk about vouchers?”

Some major Denver radio hosts are saying “Why not?,” too. Dan Caplis spent a lot of time talking it up on Friday, and Mike Rosen is discussing it this morning. As much as I like to, though, I can’t claim the credit for all the attention it’s getting.

4 Comments »

4 Responses to “Local Buzz Growing Around Douglas County School Choice Reform Proposals”

  1. Colorado district considers multiple options for funding education « Kansas Education: Public Policy in Kansas and Beyond on 08 Nov 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    [...] any school of their choice, even private schools. The Denver Post offers some information, as does Ed is Watching. Under a proposed “Option Certificate Program,” parents could take 75 percent of the [...]

  2. Ed is Watching » Coming Soon: More School Info for Parents from Colorado Dept. of Education on 09 Nov 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    [...] all the excitement over what’s going on in Douglas County, I nearly overlooked something else in the Denver Post that deserves our attention. An article last [...]

  3. mazenko on 09 Nov 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    After the movie Waiting for Superman premiered, I expected the “voucher debate” to resurface across the country. Obviously, the target for voucher programs has always been the schools and communities featured in Superman – poor and low performing areas. Strangely, in Colorado, the voucher program has reared its controversial head in the most unlikely of places – suburban Douglas county, one of the highest performing districts in the state and the sixth wealthiest county in the United States.

    The push for “vouchers” in Douglas county is an extension of the issue of school choice that has been so prominent in Colorado. With open enrollment and an extensive charter school movement, Colorado has been a leader in school choice. In Douglas county, however, there is a small movement of reformers who are promoting reforms that will extend choice beyond the current status. The goal of this plan is to extend the “choice” to private, and predominantly religious – specifically Catholic in DC – schools.

    Though a similar plan was shot down as unconstitutional in 2002 in Colorado because it violated local control, proponents of this new plan argue it will respect local control while still extending choice. It should be a fascinating debate – as the issue of “low performing schools” is not the issue. They literally want students and families to be able to spend their education dollars anywhere they want. The Denver Post has weighed in on its editorial pages, and columnist Vincent Carroll has commented as well, both arguing that it is at least worth the debate.

    I’ve always felt that “whatever works” is the answer for any school reform. The issue is whether Douglas county seeks “reform” or just more freedom. And is that a problem?

  4. Eddie on 10 Nov 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Just for the record, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down the pilot voucher program in 2004. But more importantly, I think you may see that Douglas County is just the first local school agency to push the voucher issue to the forefront of discussion. Given the state of the reform movement combined with current budget pressures, we may be looking at a unique window of opportunity. Stay tuned. Like the movie Waiting for Superman, it’s very fascinating… and very promising.

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