DougCo School Voucher Plan Panned

The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board took notice today of the recent move by conservative-dominated Douglas County Schools to initiate a private school voucher program. Conclusion? Wrong goals, wrong beneficiaries, wrong outcomes likely:

Supporters of school vouchers like to say that their goal is to provide a higher-quality education for the children who need it most. The latest events in Colorado say otherwise. A voucher program there seems more likely to benefit middle-class children and religious schools than low-income public school students, and to worsen inequities in education.

Last week, the board of the Douglas County School District voted for a pilot program that will give the parents of 500 of its 60,000-students about $4,500 each – 75% of what the district receives in per-pupil funding – to use toward tuition at participating private schools of their choice. Many of the private schools in the area are religiously based…

The private schools will be allowed to operate pretty much as they see fit. If that means accepting only the highest achievers, or rejecting students whose parents are gay or who are from a different religious background, no problem.

As long as the schools are accredited, there are no restrictions on their curriculum or instruction. They can teach creationism in place of real science, or promote their own religious beliefs exclusively, with substantial taxpayer funding.

As the Times points out, a voucher subsidy of $4,500 won’t come anywhere near the estimated $7,000 to $14,000 annual cost of private tuition. So who makes up that difference? Why, those who can afford to, of course! As for the rest of the kids? Go ahead and do your best in whatever emasculated public school system is left behind after Castle Pines families opt for $4,500 off what they would pay to send their kids to private school. This inevitable problem is a big reason why voucher programs have fallen out of favor, and charter schools have emerged as the more desirable “school choice” alternative.

Except in DougCo. DougCo doesn’t want to hear it. DougCo’s going to prove them all wrong.


18 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ajb says:

    DCSD gives a $4500/voucher to 500 pupils.

    $4500 = “75% of what the district receives in per-pupil funding.”

    Doesn’t DCSD lose the per-pupil funding once the kid enrolls in a private school?

    • The local school district would consider them as being students within the district, so the state would pay the district money as they normally do.

      Ideally (for private school fans and to some extent the school district) the private school kids would effectively return to the public school rolls to get the $4500 discount from the private school they’re already attending.

      The school district then takes the $1600 they’re not sending with the student and invests it back in to the public schools, which are essentially getting “free” money to spend on the students who remain.

      It’s great for everyone around except for the state taxpayers who wind up subsidizing religious institutions (not how the courts see it, but…) and lose accountability for all the students who aren’t in public schools.

      • MADCO says:

        Oct 1 is the “student count day.”

        If you are enrolled at madrasa private school of choice, and are not in your public school on Oct 1, that school doesn’t get your ppf for that year.

        • ohwilleke says:

          It appears from the resolution that it is relying on the authority granted to it to have local control under the State Constitution.  A state voucher school authorization was repealed at CRS 22-56-101 et seq. in 2006, after the program was held unconstitutional in 2004.  Charter schools are expressly required to be nonsectarian (per CRS 22-30.5-507), so it can’t shoe horn into that provision.

          It isn’t at all obvious that Colorado law authorizes funding from the state for this program.

          • Just going by the numbers, they’re not doing this assuming that it’s local money.  It looks like they’re counting on the state’s share of that student’s education dollars, too.

            You’ve got it right in the first part: they’re implementing it at a local level based on the previous CO Supreme Court ruling.  At a local level, it sounds like they’re trying to dictate to the state that private schools are “public” enough to them…

            • cunninjo says:

              Their plan would require the use of at least some state funds to be used for vouchers.

              But MADCO is also right. The student has to be in a public school classroom on October 1st to be funded by the state, although there is a process where schools can provide documentation to the state showing a student was simply absent that day.

              This dilemma is why the plan is stupid. The district will/should not be able to count voucher recipients as students of the district. Therefore, the district will not receive the state funding for them and will have to use their own local funds to pay the voucher. This takes away from all the other students attending public schools, raising separate legal questions in itself.

              Vouchers cannot be done at a local level unless local funds alone are used. Considering the local share of education funding in Colorado was on average about 38% of total required per pupil revenue, a local district would have to significantly increase taxes in order to only use local funds.

              This will ultimately fail, and I’d say sooner rather than later.

              Here’s a great explanation of Colorado’s method of financing public education:

  2. bullshit! says:

    You don’t NEED science education if the earth was created in seven literal twenty-four hour days. You don’t NEED science if Jesus is coming back tomorrow. Cut down the last tree!

  3. ohwilleke says:

    Generally they have lower tuitions that the LA paper suggests.  In theory, a Douglas County student could attend private schools anywhere, but the realities of transportation make this difficult.

    1. Englewood, Jim Elliot Schools, 119 students, grades 6-12 (“Emphasizing a servant’s heart and a missions mind, we are a different kind of Christian school.” Non-denominational) Tuition $6,795, 4% receive financial aid on average $950.

    2. Parker, Lutheran High School Rockies (Missouri Synod), 139 students, grades 9-12

    3. Franktown, Brookstone Christian Academy, 19 students, grades 1-8

    4. Franktown, Castlewood Christian School, 37 students, 1-9 (“Kindergarten-8th grade tuition is $325 for non Adventist members and $300 for SDA member.” This may be per month.)

    5. Franktown, Trinity Lutheran School (Missouri Synod), 72 students, 1-8

    6. Highlands Ranch, Cherry Hills Christian School, 630 students, 1-8 (Tuition is “1-5: $6534 per year 6-8: $7369 per year”)

    7. Highlands Ranch, Highlands Ranch Christian School, 250 students, 1-8

    8. Parker, Ave Maria Catholic School, 323 students, 1-8 Tuition is $4,995, 7% receive financial aid, on average $1,000.

    9. Parker, Parker Montessori Educational Institute, 13 students, grades 1-3

    10. Parker, Southeast Christian School, 219 students, 1-8

    In all, there are 1,821 students in those schools in grades 1-8 now, with no state subsidy, and it is fair to assume there won’t be significantly more in the near term with a voucher program, since schools can’t easily expand in response to a possibly temporary government subsidy. Of those students, 99.3% are religious schools (all but 13 of those students).

    (Compiled originally for a blog post here.

  4. ThillyWabbit says:

    The Douglas County Republicans ran a partisan campaign, openly supporting their slate of candidates in those nonpartisan races with money and efforts.

  5. BlueCat says:

    range from just over the voucher amount to a high of over  20K.  The California article says most are between 7K and 14K.  I’ve been told the average is 15K.  Last I heard there was one non-religious school participating.  And all this just to benefit 500 students out of a 60,000  student population?  

    No wonder all three letters on the subject in today’s paper were critical. This is basically a nice discount coupon for a lucky few, almost exclusively from more affluent families who already have access to good public schools. And of course there will be the legal challenges for the school system to deal with.

    No matter what level of government, federal, state, local, you look at or where you look, R proposed budget cuts, union busting, school voucher programs, selling off public assets and services to the private sector with no bid contracts,  liquidating elected city councils and turning over whole municipalities to the private sector, R pols couldn’t care less about the promised dedication to creating  jobs they ran on.  All they care about is an ever bigger piece of the pie, preferably subsidized by the tax payers they are screwing, to expand the elite’s already out-sized piece to the max.

    No need to travel abroad to experience exotic, cleptocratic Banana Republics.  Our own home grown Republican Governors, legislatures, boards and commissions are recreating the entire nation as a brand new Banana Republic as fast as they can,  And don’t complain or they’ll accuse you of being a socialist, atheist, America hating scum bag waging class warfare against the deserving rich.  

  6. WitnessProtectionForGeeks says:

    I resorted to saying fucked up.

    Vouchers are a bad idea to begin with, that was enough to oppose it.  However, this specific program sounds worse the more I hear.

    I hope the state says “hold on Charley” when they come and ask for their funding after the Oct 1. count.

  7. fatboy says:

    The R’s are pushing for an income tax credit for these poor folks too in HB11-1048.

    • ajb says:

      Here they go again, adding another line to the form, all for the benefit of their favorite class – those wealthy enough to afford private school (and large campaign contributions).

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