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What's working in Colorado - School Choice

Photo Courtesy of Melissa Taylor

My oldest daughter is going into fourth grade and starting her third school.

Not because we're in the military or we move a lot, because I'm a parent who, like you, wants my kids in an excellent school with great teachers who love children.

But, three schools seems excessive to me. And it's my life.

Besides being a mom of two, I'm a former teacher and literacy trainer with a M.A. in Education. In other words, I have (potentially unrealistically?) high expectations and I can back them up with research.

When my daughter's first school went through four principals in 18 months, we moved on thinking surely we could find a more stable school.

Her second school - well, it's a long story, but suffice to say that when I questioned the school’s lack of differentiation, it wasn’t well received. Realizing that I couldn't wait for systemic change while my kids weren't getting the education they needed, I decided that we'd try one more school. And, I hope that this is the one.

In my state of Colorado, we can choice into any public school or district so long as there is room. But, while that sounds good, it's challenging to find consistently good schools-- believe me, I'm trying. And I don't want to homeschool nor do I think private schools are necessarily better.

So, when I heard Colorado's Douglas County School District voted to pilot a voucher program for 2011 - 12, I felt encouraged. I hope that parents in this district who feel similarly to me will have more choices. With the voucher program, up to 500 students can receive 75 percent of the state per-pupil funding, or $4,575, to attend a non-religious, private school of their choice. However, students are only eligible if they've attended a DCSD school for at least one year.

Many educators and some parents don’t care for this program. One big reason is they want that per-pupil money to stay in the school district.

While I understand their point, as a parent, I want choices. Which is why I'm hopeful about this voucher program. Potentially, this will make private school more accessible to parents who normally couldn’t afford the tuition. Potentially, this will make it easier for parents to find a school that is a good fit for their children, their family, and their budget. 

We'll have to wait and see what happens.

I want choices – great choices -- for me and for all families in Colorado. Don't you want the same? 

Do you have quality choices for your children's public education? 

And, I really hope, for my kids sake, that the third school's the charm. Wish me luck.

Melissa Taylor writes about education-related topics at her award-winning playful learning blog, Imagination Soup, and for publications such as Scholastic Parent and Child, Babble.com, Colorado Parent Magazine and others. She's the Book Editor-at-Large for Colorado Parent Magazine, writing their book review blog, Bookmarkable and is a certified teacher with a M.A. in Education.  She is the 2011 Mom Congress delegate from Colorado.

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