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Douglas County: Venting on vouchers

It was a civil, if feisty, crowd.

More than 40 speakers and others packed a school board meeting room in Castle Rock on Tuesday for the public’s first chance to comment on Douglas County’s voucher proposal.

Go straight to meeting video.

Most of the speakers – 26 of the 42 – spoke against the draft plan, citing concerns about public dollars flowing to private schools and the potential exodus of district students. Some criticized the board’s decision to spend more than $13,000 on the attorney who wrote the proposal.

“We do not have a failing school system,” said a passionate Daniel Galloway, the father of four students in district schools. “Let’s call this what it is. You call it choice, I call it a bailout or a subsidy.”

But there was also emotion among the supporters who spoke. One mom talked about the problems her autistic son is having in his neighborhood school. Others said the proposal could reduce overcrowding and bring more money into the district.

“I will be happy for my taxpayer money to be provided towards parents to choose which school fits their needs,” said Karin Piper, whose children have been in traditional, charter, online, private and home schools. “I don’t feel like I have the business to tell parents that.”

Under the current proposal, a student enrolled in Douglas County could receive a voucher equal to a private school’s tuition or 75 percent of per-pupil funding, whichever is less. The other 25 percent would stay in the district.

Private and religious schools in Douglas County could apply to participate in the program and, under the current plan, those schools could continue admissions policies requiring students be of a certain faith.

But Douglas County school board members said the final version of the plan will be shaped by community input. A second public hearing is scheduled Dec. 7 and board President John Carson said a time line for a vote on the proposal should be ready by the board’s Dec. 21 meeting.

For more information about the proposal and a legal history of vouchers in Colorado, see this EdNews’ story.

Click in the video below to view highlights from Tuesday’s meeting. In some shots, you can see the clock ticking down the single minute each speaker was given. And you’ll hear, in some cases, audience members shouting out “Time” to ensure the limit was enforced – causing some speakers to stop mid-sentence.

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