In a move that some saw as controversial, the Douglas County School District voted unanimously Tuesday night to pay tuition for students attending private schools as part of an open enrollment program.
In a packed board meeting, people spoke passionately on both sides of the issue.
"Your legacy will be for destroying public education in Douglas county," said Delana Maynes, with the group Taxpayers For Education.
"You should have the authority to choose the school best suited to your kids and the funds to put them there," said Brenda Bulwark, a parent living in Douglas County.
"Douglas County is a high-performing school district and our school board is committed to constant improvement," said John Carson, president of the Douglas County School District Board of Education. "The board has voted unanimously in favor of more choice and accountability with a firm belief that this will benefit all of the students in the Douglas County School District."
Here's how the voucher program would work: Up to 500 students will be given 75 percent of the state's per-pupil funding -- around $4,500 starting this fall. The remaining 25 percent of the funding -- about $1,500 -- would stay with the school district.
The school district predicted that it could have a net gain of about $400,000, which would go to any schools hurt by the program.
Douglas County will become the first district in the nation with the program. It will start taking calls and making a list starting Wednesday morning.
The district's Strategic Plan includes three distinct district priorities: choice, world-class education and system performance.
"The Board of Education firmly believes that choice improves the quality of education by fostering innovation and competition to improve all options for education in Douglas County," a news release stated.
District's 'Blueprint For Choice' Outlines How It Would Implement Program
The Blueprint for Choice contains recommendations and associated timelines regarding the implementation of choice initiatives that is intended to improve all educational options in Douglas County, according to the board's press release.
The blueprint encompasses neighborhood schools, charter schools, magnet schools, a new home education program, contract schools, and scholarships to private school partners. It also outlines several key elements that include improving information and communication, creating flexibility through policy and procedure change, creating a level playing field for all district schools, and providing multiple opportunities or pathways for student learning.
"Douglas County School District has a tradition of innovation, excellence, and economic efficiency," said Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Celania-Fagen. "The Strategic Plan, including the Blueprint for Choice, will help align our work, keep us true to our traditions, and move this District toward our goal of providing a world-class education for the 21st century. Our families are informed and know their children well. Together, under this comprehensive plan, we will help every student and staff member find his or her niche and create the maximum opportunity for success."
Included in the resolution, the Board of Education approved revisions to the policy regarding Open Enrollment in DCSD to provide easier access to educational choices for students inside and outside of Douglas County who wish to take advantage of learning opportunities in Douglas County.
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