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Voices: Appellate court was right on vouchers

The field director for Parent Led Reform Chad Mathis celebrates a recent appellate court ruling that overturned a lower court’s opinion that Douglas County’s school voucher program is unconstitutional.

The recent decision from the Colorado Court of Appeals really brightened the days of many Douglas County students and their families. It also offers hope to others who for now can only hope their local school board might be humble and brave enough to follow suit by honoring the authority and responsibility of parents to choose their children’s educational paths.

I have one child enrolled in a Douglas County charter school and another child who will be entering school in two and a half years.

As a consumer, I benefit when restaurants, tire stores, insurance companies or any other providers of goods or services compete for my business. Regardless of what the industry is, competition gives incentive for high quality products and services. Competition also gives incentives for providers of these products and services to specialize to meet specific needs of different consumers. K-12 education is no different from other industries in this aspect. Consumers of K-12 education benefit when there is a dynamic marketplace of options that strive to meet children’s diverse learning needs.

Some seem to believe that competition will hurt traditional neighborhood public schools. This belief simply is not true. If anything, increased choices for parents will ultimately make public schools even better, not worse, than they currently are. Public schools will have more incentive to customize and tweak their services to meet the needs of more children.

We experienced this phenomenon when Federal Express started competing with the USPS in the package delivery business. And our kids are far more important than the packages we send.

While I may not be an expert in the finer points of education, I will claim to be an expert in knowing my daughter and my son and their needs. There is no one in the education field who can claim to be a better expert in this area than my wife and myself.

There are also many children in the district with a different mix of needs than my own children, and the parents of these children are in the best position to determine what these needs are. Therefore, parents should have more input in how to direct the education funding for their children and special interest groups, such as teachers’ unions, should have less.

Most parents probably will continue to choose the district’s neighborhood school options. A growing number are satisfied with the various charter school programs in Douglas County. But to make sure 100 percent of students are getting the best help to meet their potential, I’m glad the board has put so much support behind the Choice Scholarship Program as well.

My children will be entering school over the next few years. That’s why I appreciate the efforts this school board has made to move away from the one-size-fits-all model towards a “system” with expanded choices and incentives for education providers to innovate and better meet the needs of children in the district.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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