Colorado county OKs vouchers

Up to 500 students will receive $4,575 vouchers to attend private schools in Douglas County, Colorado this fall. The school board voted 7-0 Tuesday for the plan, which is not restricted to low-income students. A private philanthropy has promised to provide additional aid to low-income families who want to enroll their children in private schools that charge more than the voucher amount.

Participating private schools must monitor attendance and give  state exams to voucher students. Religious schools can take voucher students, as long as they’re not required to participate in religious activities.

The county will retain one-quarter of the state funding per student, an estimated $1,525. If all 500 vouchers are used, the district will have $762,500 to administer the voucher program, pay legal expenses and potentially fund other needs.

Surprisingly, the Douglas County teachers union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, did not oppose the plan.

“We applaud the district and teachers for working collaboratively … to ensure money will not leave a budget with scarce resources, holds all participating schools accountable and provides an equal opportunity for all our students,” teachers union President Brenda Smith said in a written statement. “We will continue to monitor its implementation.”

School board members said the pilot “will save the district money, encourage healthy competition and vest school choice where it belongs – with families,” reports Education News Colorado.

“The system isn’t broken but we want to make it better,” (Board President John) Carson said of the high-performing district. “It’s time for more choice, competition and innovation in our public education system.”

A legal challenge is certain. The board’s lawyer points out that a statewide voucher plan was ruled unconstitutional because it infringed on local school boards’ authority. That argument wouldn’t apply to the Douglas County pilot.

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Comments

  1. tim-10-ber says:

    Why is the district allowed to hold back 1/4 +/- of the funding that should be included in the vouchers? This is highway robbery…lay off the people at the district. It should only take one person to “administer” this program and that should not be a new FTE. Should be the person currently responsible for handling federal or charter shcool funding. What a waste…send the money on to the schools that accept the kids…

  2. It’s a pilot program for 500 kids in the first year. The district decided to retain 25% of Per-Pupil Revenue for 2.0 FTE to administer the program and to bring an additional $400,000 revenue to the district. Is it ideal? No. Was it necessary to make the program politically palatable during tough budget times? Most likely yes.

    Everyone has been anticipating a legal challenge, just no word yet. So far, it doesn’t look like the union will be behind it. I’m sure one of the usual suspects will, though. It is truly a “local control” program, though, which responds to the concerns of the 2004 Colorado Supreme Court decision. Hopefully, the program can get established, demonstrate success and demand, and continue to grow in the future.

    For more, see our posting with picture at:
    http://www.ediswatching.org/2011/03/douglas-county-school-board-enacts-voucher-pilot-program-makes-history/

  3. Don’t we lose some of the inherent value in private schools when we start throwing state accountability tests in? I think one of the reasons that private schools are so sought after is that they are not creating robot children that simply regurgitate information at test time. Requiring the voucher accepted students to take state exams will be putting the pressure on private schools to teach to the test, rather than to teach for understanding, the same conundrum that some public schools are in now.