16th 2011
Douglas County School Board Enacts Voucher Pilot Program, Makes History

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools

You may have already heard about last night’s BIG news from Douglas County: The Board of Education voted to adopt (quite possibly) the nation’s very first ever school board-approved private school choice scholarship program. And the vote was unanimous! What took me so long to post this, you say? Trying to recover from last night, where I was Tweeting up a happy storm!

DCSD Board Vote

The Douglas County Board of Education prepares to make the historic vote on March 15, 2011 -- from L to R: Dr. Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, superintendent; Board of Education members Justin Williams, Dan Gerken (vice president), Doug Benevento, Craig Richardson, John Carson (president), Meghann Silverthorn, Clifton Stahl

What more can I say? Find a full report at Ed News Colorado, as well as blog coverage by Jay Greene and Adam Emerson. Get more details from the Douglas County School District choice page, or better yet, from the press release below sent out today by my Education Policy Center friends:


March 16, 2011

Contact: Pam Benigno, Education Policy Center Director

Local Board Adopts Private School Choice Program
Institute: Douglas County Vote “Milestone for Educational Freedom”

GOLDEN, Colo.—The Independence Institute, Colorado’s leading voice for free market policy, lauds a landmark local school board vote enabling parents to opt for private schools with public funds.

On Tuesday night the Douglas County R-1 Board of Education unanimously approved a wide-ranging set of reforms that expand school choice, including the adoption of a groundbreaking program that will provide publicly-funded “choice scholarships” to cover or defray private school tuition.

“Today is a milestone for educational freedom,” said Pam Benigno, director of the Institute’s Education Policy Center. “Our hats are off to Douglas County for following through on a bold vision to empower more families with genuine learning options.”

Along with a number of local community members and school leaders, Benigno and senior education policy analyst Ben DeGrow have served on the district’s School Choice Task Force since June 2010.

Tuesday’s vote is believed to represent the first local Board-initiated private school choice program in the United States. Also, unlike most states that have adopted vouchers or tuition tax credits, eligibility is not limited by student ability or family income.

The maximum scholarship value is estimated to be about $4,575 for the coming school year, based on 75 percent of Douglas County’s expected per-pupil revenue (PPR). The district will retain the remaining 25 percent ($1,525) to administer the program and to provide additional revenue. To be eligible to receive student scholarship funding, “partner” private schools must agree to limited terms. The choice program will start as a pilot during the 2011-12 school year, serving 500 departing district students who opt to participate.

“This district board has broken barriers and set a new standard for promoting parental choice,” Benigno said.

More than 61,000 students currently are enrolled in Douglas County R-1, located between Denver and Colorado Springs, the third largest school district in Colorado.

The Independence Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Golden, Colo.

Excellent news. Too much excitement, in fact. I think I’m going to go play with my Legos now.


12 Responses to “Douglas County School Board Enacts Voucher Pilot Program, Makes History”

  1. Janet Fichter on 20 Mar 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    May I highly recommend Diane Ravitch’s book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” She objectively tackles the issues of accountability, testing and school choice as she recounts how her own views about them have changed. It is worth reading to broaden your perspective on the dangers of school choice.

    I’m neutral about school choice; but as a public school teacher, I applaud her tackling the lack of perspective involved in the accountability and testing movement. I live for the day when we can show student academic achievement in a broader, more reflective way. We need to give parents and society a more authentic view of what their children are learning.

    Please join me in doing what you can to change the high stakes testing movement in public education. Thank you,
    A public servant who loves America’s children.

  2. Eddie on 21 Mar 2011 at 10:37 am #

    Thanks, Janet. I read Ravitch’s book and attended a Q & A event last spring here in Denver where she discussed her book. I’m not sure we can say her book does anything “objectively.” It’s a different perspective, to be sure, and raises some interesting questions. But ultimately it left me shrugging my shoulders and scratching my head. Example: She says charter schools are a bad / unnecessary reform, and that we need to return to enriching the curriculum through a strong focus on cultural literacy, etc. Here in Colorado the vast majority of schools that have made the move to the Core Knowledge / cultural literacy focus indeed have been charter schools.

    For a more thorough critique of Ravitch’s book, I recommend this post and the accompanying links — a 5-part series by Stuart Buck, a University of Arkansas doctoral fellow:

  3. Ed is Watching » Studies Show Vouchers Help Kids, Schools; What About Research of Douglas County? on 23 Mar 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    [...] suggestion for the next place to study? Douglas County, here in our own Front Range backyard, which launched a local pilot voucher program just last [...]

  4. Ed is Watching » Many Interesting Angles to Watch as Douglas County Voucher Pilot Rolls Out on 04 Apr 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    [...] a little hometown Colorado bias at work here, but in my mind Douglas County vouchers is the education story of the year. I hope you didn’t think the story was essentially over once the Board adopted the program a [...]

  5. » Blog Archive » GOOD News: Douglas County Adopts Groundbreaking Pilot Voucher Program on 05 Apr 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    [...] a week for parental choice and school reform in Colorado. As reported at Ed Is Watching, the Board of Education for Colorado’s third largest school district voted unanimously on [...]

  6. Ed is Watching » Please Ask First Before Using Students as Props for a Statewide Tax Hike on 18 May 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    [...] the Douglas County school board or district staff use students in any such fashion to promote the groundbreaking new choice scholarship program? With or without parental [...]

  7. Peoples Press Collective | Colorado Politics | Please Ask First Before Using Students as Props for a Statewide Tax Hike : on 18 May 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    [...] the Douglas County school board or district staff use students in any such fashion to promote the groundbreaking new choice scholarship program? With or without parental [...]

  8. Ed is Watching » Dougco School Board Approves Choice Program: Looking Back One Year Later on 15 Mar 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    [...] you believe it was one year ago today that the Douglas County Board of Education voted to adopt the groundbreaking Pilot Choice [...]

  9. Colorado school district pays teachers based on merit, not seniority « on 13 Jun 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    [...] cut all ties with their teachers’ union. About 18 months before that, the county introduced a groundbreaking new voucher system. In spite of union criticisms, dropout rates have continuously declined, and record numbers of [...]

  10. The Big Apple and Little Dougco | AirModal Independent on 12 Nov 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    [...] Wednesday, 18 months after adopting a groundbreaking local private school choice program, the Douglas County Board of Education once again set the bold reform standard. Elected leaders of [...]

  11. The Big Apple and Little Dougco — California Political Review on 13 Nov 2013 at 9:01 am #

    [...] Wednesday, 18 months after adopting a groundbreaking local private school choice program, the Douglas County Board of Education once again set the bold reform standard. Elected leaders of [...]

  12. Ed is Watching » Colorado Supreme Court Will Hear Dougco School Choice Case, More Waiting Ahead on 17 Mar 2014 at 2:01 pm #

    [...] It’s not really surprising that the state’s supreme court wants to weigh in. The hard part for the young and the restless is that we’ve had to wait more than a year since the Court of Appeals handed students and parents a fantastic victory. Even harder to believe is that we just passed the third anniversary of the Douglas County school board adopting the program. [...]

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply