School choice is a very hot topic in the current educational and economic climate. The state of Colorado has a proposed cut for public school funding of $322 million dollars for the 2011-2012 school year. In March of this year, the Douglas County school district passed the school-choice scholarship program (also known as vouchers) in which students who live in Douglas County can apply for a scholarship and if approved can use public funds to help pay for a private education. The district also has many charter schools and magnet schools to choose from as well. The educational choices are dizzying. Just this past week two lawsuits were filed against the Douglas County School District challenging the district’s decision to use taxpayer money for a private education.
I’m going to just put it out there right now, that I believe school choice is a great thing. My son has Down syndrome. If his school was on the list of schools that accepted the “scholarships” I would have been the first person to sign up. Bryce attends The Rise School of Denver, a therapeutic preschool for children who have special needs and their typically developing peers. The school is amazing, but it’s also very expensive. Our family budget is definitely feeling the pinch. I truly believe that if Bryce attended our neighborhood public preschool, he would not get the education he needs to learn and thrive. The time and attention alone, that Bryce receives at the Rise School far out ways what the public schools are offering. So, our family makes sacrifices so Bryce can attend. But, I know many families who could never afford the Rise School tuition and could truly benefit.
That brings me back to the lawsuit. I understand that the filers don’t think public funds should be used for private schools. But, if the public schools were so great to begin with, people wouldn’t want to go outside the district schools for their education. We all want what’s best for our children. We are fortunate that in Douglas County we do have the choices we have: scholarships, charters, magnets, neighborhood schools, and homeschooling.
Do you think public funds should be used to pay for private education?