Douglas County School Board Making Strong Statement for Parental Choice

How often do you see a local school board proactively promoting school choice — including choices inside and outside the district, for the sake of satisfying the local education customers? Let’s be honest: It’s pretty rare. So maybe it’s time to introduce you to the Board of Education for the Douglas County School District, the third largest in Colorado. Last Thursday the DCSD board sent out a memo that included this interesting passage:

We also want to address the perception that the Board of Education prefers one type of school over another. Nothing could be further from the truth. Simply put, your Board supports choice. We believe that informed parents, not Board members, are best suited to determine which schools will best serve the needs of their individual students. Under our Superintendent’s leadership, schools are making efforts to define themselves clearly. We strongly support these efforts so that parents have the best information to choose which school will meet the unique learning needs and goals of their children. This work will also provide choices for teachers to match their professional styles with the school’s learning environment. Our role will be properly limited to ensuring that all schools operate on a level playing field, one that affords equal resources and opportunities for all students…. [emphases added]

Since June, the DCSD Board has convened a School Choice Task Force of local citizens, school leaders and other education experts (including my Education Policy Center friends). With a new superintendent in place, the Board is looking to expand the boundaries of choice in an effort to better serve students and the community. The Task Force has looked at a range of changes for possible recommendation and adoption — everything from improving open enrollment policies to enhancing services available to home schoolers to ensuring equitable treatment of charter schools to considering a local private school choice program.

As explained on the DCSD website, one more Task Force meeting remains:

DCSD Choice Task Force meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. Meeting is open to the public. Subcommittee plans are slated to be heard before the Board of Education in November.

The 60,000-pupil suburban school district may be on the verge of some groundbreaking changes that could open the door to broader educational transformation in service of academic excellence and ensuring students have access to great schools that meet their needs.