School district says yes to vouchers

Posted 3/17/11

The Douglas County School District approved a controversial proposal to dedicate public education dollars to private schools. The board on March 15 …

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School district says yes to vouchers


The Douglas County School District approved a controversial proposal to dedicate public education dollars to private schools. The board on March 15 voted unanimously to approve school option certificates, similar to school vouchers, in its school choice proposal.

The decision earmarks a pilot program for public funding of a private education for up to 500 students in the 2011/2012 school year. In tandem with the decision to approve vouchers, the school board also approved a motion to create a school choice legal fund to defend its decision. The legal fund is set aside for donors interested in contributing toward legal costs related to the program, according to the board’s motion to establish the fund.

The school board put vouchers on the table last summer with a school choice task force that proposed expanded educational options in the district. At first calling the vouchers school choice certificates, the board eventually settled on calling the vouchers “scholarships,” with up to 500 scholarships available to eligible students in the pilot year.

The program gives parents the option to take their annual state-issued, per-pupil-funding and spend the money at a partner private school, including participating religious campuses. Private schools will be expected to sign a contract with the school district to qualify as a partner school.

The board’s decision came after months of public hearings, during which district residents spoke for and against the decision. Board members broke their silence about the proposal, calling it a bold, innovative decision on the part of the district.

“It’s time for more choice, competition and innovation,” said John Carson, school board president. “Our children deserve a new approach. We value opposing viewpoints, but I believe any good idea must be able to withstand criticism. To succeed we must be daring.”

Opponents to the proposal promised a backlash to the board’s decision. Representatives of the Taxpayers for Public Educations displayed signs during the hearing that decried the board’s decision. In the absence of an open dialogue with the board during five months of public hearings, residents were frustrated by the push for vouchers.

“Our group is really disappointed that we have not had a voice in the decision,” said Susan Zloth, Taxpayers for Public Education. “This is a political ploy by the board. We are pursuing a recall election in 2011.”

Zloth displayed handwritten signs during the hearing that included messages such as “Vouchers = Every Child left Behind,” “No Bailout for Private Schools,” and “How many votes does it take for a recall?”

The answer to the last question is 18,000, Zloth said.

The board’s scholarship proposal already resulted in a few parents exercising their rights to express their opinion with “civil disobedience,” said Christian Morreau. Morreau and his wife opted to hold their kids out during CSAP testing in protest against the voucher proposal.

“There are a number of groups getting organized,” Morreau said. “We will withhold our kids from CSAP until the district stops giving away taxpayer money to private education.”

The school choice proposal is available to view online at the district’s website at


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