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Friday Churn: Voucher appeal

Updated – Three families who received Douglas County vouchers have appealed an Aug. 12 ruling stopping the pilot to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

“We are confident that the Court of Appeals will correct the trial court’s decision, which ignored or attempted to rationalize away existing Colorado and U.S. Supreme Court precedent that clearly authorizes the scholarship program,” said Michael Bindas, a senior attorney with the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, which represents the Oakley, Doyle and Anderson families of Douglas County.

Douglas County school board members voted 7-0 in March to create a pilot using public funding to help up to 500 Dougco students attend private schools. A Denver judge halted the program last month after a handful of parents and civil-liberties groups filed a lawsuit.

See the full press release from the Institute for Justice and read EdNews’ archive of voucher stories.


What’s churning:

Leaders of the Denver education community gathered for the first in a series of three monthly forums on Denver Public Schools Thursday night, and a primary theme that evolved from the session is a desire to de-emphasize the significance of labels.

The trio of forums is being jointly hosted by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, A-Plus Denver and the Donnell-Kay Foundation.

Close to 100 DPS district officials, school board members, candidates for the board, parents and other community members gathered at the downtown Grand Hyatt for the initial installment of “More From Our Schools: Deeper Dialogue on Education Issues.”

Thursday’s session’s advertised focus was “Priorities.” The next scheduled forum, Oct. 11, is to key on “Strategies,” while the Nov. 15 installment is to highlight “Next Steps.”

The first gathering was moderated by Frederick Hess, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and widely published author on education policy. Hess noted he was one of the few people in the room who “knows essentially nothing about DPS and Denver’s educational challenges,” and mostly deferred to those in the audience who had questions – or short policy statements sometimes framed as questions.

One of the more impassioned speakers during the evening was Hilltop neighborhood resident Kristen Tourangeau, a DPS graduate and parent. She spoke about efforts she and other parents in her immediate community had made to improve the culture and level of achievement at three different schools, which she later identified as Steck Elementary, Carson Elementary and Hill Middle School.

“Nobody ever gives parents and communities a chance to turn around regular schools,” she said. “When we do that, we’re considered ‘non-reformers.’ I take offense to that.”

Tourangeau was just one of several people who declared that framing every discussion about DPS progress around the reform/anti-reform divide, and assigning people to one side or the other of that split, was counterproductive.

Also, although the second and third More From Our Schools forums will sandwich the Nov. 1 DPS board election – and all but one of the nine declared candidates for the three seats being contested were on hand – overt politicking was at a minimum.

Denver Classroom Teachers Association president Henry Roman commented on the civility of the discussion, saying he had worried if it was going to be an atmosphere of “Do you want a piece of me? Let’s go!”

“I think it’s very important to have this discussion,” said Roman, who encouraged the forum hosts to open up the remainder of the series to as broad an audience as possible.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Disgraced Atlanta supt. defends her tenure: Beverly L. Hall discusses the massive cheating scandal for the first time. New York Times

Union to Bloomberg: No more layoffs: With budget projections for next year looking grim, the United Federation of Teachers fires a warning shot across the bow. GothamSchools.org