Douglas County school district, the third largest school district in Colorado, is considering private school vouchers allowing parents an option to send their children to a non-public school, including religious schools, using public funds.
Already struggling, Douglas County cut 168 teacher positions in 2010. It also cut a significant amount bus routes to the dismay of parents. Students who take the bus are now charged a $.50 per ride fee. And now the district wants to offer to pay (almost $5,000 per student per school year) for the option to go to private school. Why?
In short, supporters defend the issue by arguing that this will provide better education through competition and give low-income kids "options" for a good education.
The Douglas County 2010 Mini Annual Report, however, boasts that "In 2009, Douglas County students performed 12-21 percentage points above state CSAP averages in reading, math, writing and science. Not only did we exceed the state average in every grade and every subject tested, but we led the Denver area in reading, writing and mathematics."
Kids in Douglas County are getting a good education. In addition, parents can already send their kids to any school in Douglas County. Exceeding the state average in every grade and every subject, Douglas County already has pretty good options.
As for low-income students? In 2008 the median income in Douglas County was $100,493 while the median income for the state of Colorado was $57,184. Douglas County has the second lowest percentage of low-income students in the entire state of Colorado. Second only to Aspen.
Not only will the district, supported by public funds, pay the private schools nearly $5,000 per student per year, but the county will have to create an entire office to monitor the program. It also has to pay for an attorney to fight its political agenda. Money better spent invested in sports programs, music, teachers or… bus routes.
Many private schools cost more than $5,000 per year so the parents that cannot afford private school now won't be able to afford it with a voucher either. The only thing that this voucher program does in the case of Douglas County is take much-needed funds away from a successful program.