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Voucher debate in Colorado should be about excellence

By | December 8th, 2010

One of the knocks against the Douglas County Board of Education pursuing a school-voucher program is that the county is relatively wealthy. That misses the point. I’ll explain why in a moment. First, check out this coverage…

“Establishing a school voucher program in Douglas County would be akin to sending famine-relief supplies to the Upper East Side of Manhattan while people starve in Darfur,” Alan Gottlieb, publisher of Education News Colorado, wrote last month on The Huffington Post.

“Douglas County is one of the wealthiest in the nation, with median family income topping $105,000 and just 8% of students qualifying for subsidized lunches, compared with 72% in the Denver Public Schools,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

At Tuesday night’s board meeting, which I attended, the board agreed to move into the research phase on vouchers.

Amid the discussion, Board President John Carson made this point about media coverage…

“You know, I think there’s a stereotype of Douglas County that’s not accurate. Certainly we have a lot of privileges, but we also have a lot of folks in Douglas County who have needs as well. Eight percent of our students are school-lunch eligible and our community is largely a middle-class community. And so I don’t have much use for those stereotypes that are being put out there. We have the same interests as other school districts in coming up with unique and innovative ways to meet the needs of our students. And our students have the same type of interests and needs as students in any other part of the state of Colorado.”

Carson nails it. Parents - rich, poor, middle-class or of any other description - want the best possible education for their kids. Why are vouchers being considered in Douglas County? Simple. It’s the one place in Colorado with the political will to look at a program like this.

Hopefully the Douglas County venture will find success and then be accepted in places that may be less willing to take that risk. The future of all children in Colorado depends on it.

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