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Douglas County School Board Enacts Voucher Pilot Program, Makes History

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 http://www.dcsdk12.org/portal/page/portal/DCSD/District_Information/School_Choice” target=”blank”>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
303-279-6536, pam@i2i.org

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.