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Quality Alternatives To Government Schools In Greater Denver

IP-17-92 (October 1992)
Author: Damon M. Zinn

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In Brief: Nonpublic School Study Suggests Vouchers Can Work

Here is evidence that if Amendment 7 passes on Nov. 3, Parents in the countries of Denver, Boulder, Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson, and Douglas will be able to take vouchers into an independent and church related educational sector that is socially inclusive, responsive to harder-to-educate children, quality-driven, and remarkably affordable.

Data in this issue paper, obtained through an Independence Institute survey of 48 schools and state records on 100 others, support that characterization. They contradict the bleak picture of an expensive, exclusive, unaccountable nonpublic sector as commonly portrayed by voucher opponents.

Inclusiveness: 80% of the schools surveyed enroll the majority of their students from families laking less that $50,000 per year, and 40% have a significant proportion of black and Hispanic students. Two-thirds of the church-related schools report significant enrollment of children from outside their denomination. (See pages 5 and 6.)

Openness: 25% of survey respondents enroll a significant proportion of special-needs students. In addition, 80% said they “sometimes or almost always take chances on admitting students with past difficulties in academics or conduct.: (See page 7 and 17.)

Quality: 90% of the schools have better placement records that the public school for students moving on to the next level of education. They test rigorously, imaginatively, and often. With few exceptions all reported membership in one or more accrediting bodies. (See pages 13, 14, 15.)

Affordability: Fear of inadequate educational buying power by voucher opponents are unfounded. Average tuition for all 148 nonpublic schools in greater Denver which are registered with the Colorado Department of Education is just $2589 per year. Church-related schools, which comprise about two-thirds of the total, report an even lower average of $2005. $5300 per pupil is now being spent in Colorado public schools. (See page 7.)

Also notable: Amendment 7 cost projections which assume universal participation by the nonpublic education sector are suspect. 13% of the Institute’s survey respondents declare hesitancy to accept a voucher in payment for tuition, even “with no regulatory strings attached.” (See page 18.) Table of contents is on page 2. Survey analysis begins on page 3. Full survey results and a directory of all 148 schools are in a separate appendix.