School Voucher Program A Hit

Douglas County Likely To Exceed Application Limit

Douglas County's school voucher program will likely go to a lottery system to handle high demand.

7NEWS has learned the state's first-ever voucher program is ahead of schedule, taking in nearly 300 applicants from kindergarten through high school in two days for 500 available scholarships.

"Well, I think we're meeting a need," Dr. Christian Cutter. assistant superintendent for the Douglas County School District. "We feel like 500 students is a great pilot to manage, to observe and then to make whatever necessary adjustments."

Applications are being taken online through May 12, with a lottery system scheduled for May 16, if demand exceeds the 500 initially projected for this one-year pilot program that allows tax dollars per student to be used at private schools.

As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, 291 applications had been filled out.

But expansion of the program is not on the drawing table yet.

"We need to be able to measure it. Was it successful? Did it meet the needs of those families that were making these transitions? And if so, how do we make sure it works for who we have to begin with before we talk about doing anything more?" Cutter said.

Thirty-one private schools within a 25-mile radius have signed on as partner schools, Cutter said, in cities like Highlands Ranch, Aurora and Denver.

In order to be eligible, students must be residents in the Douglas County School District area, who are currently attending a DCSD school and have been in the district for no less than one year. They must plan on staying in Douglas County and be able to arrange their own transportation.

If the criteria are met, a maximum of $4,575 per student could be used to pay for tuition at a private school, with Douglas County retaining 25 percent of the student's tax money to keep track of the program, Cutter said.

7NEWS checked the tuition rates at three participating partner schools, finding $4,575 certainly won't cover all costs at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, where tuition is $13,950 for the 2011-2012 school year.

At Mullen High School in Denver, annual tuition is $10,300, while at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, tuition is $11,225, according to each school's website.

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