Many Interesting Angles to Watch as Douglas County Voucher Pilot Rolls Out

Maybe it’s a little hometown Colorado bias at work here, but in my mind Douglas County vouchers is the education story of the year. I hope you didn’t think the story was essentially over once the Board adopted the program a few weeks ago. Because it’s not.

Now that the official policy for the pilot scholarship program has been posted online for your careful review, there are at least four angles to keep an eye on moving forward:

  • How many families will apply for the first year’s 500 slots? We know that the torrid pace of parental interest has to taper off at some point. Most Douglas County parents are satisfied with their current schooling situation. But just how much will demand for private education drive future growth of the program?
  • How well can the district get the pilot program up and running for the coming 2011-12 school year? Some in the policy world may marvel at the speed of implementing such a groundbreaking program, but Douglas County’s board is determined to have a director hired, private school partnerships established (schools within 25 miles of Castle Rock have until April 15 to apply), applications processed, and a lottery held in time for August.
  • How exactly can a voucher program work as a charter school? Ed News Colorado has reported that the district is giving strong consideration to setting up the pilot voucher program through a new “charter school” that would in essence contract with area private schools. Given the particularities of charter school law and the uncharted territory that lies ahead, it will be interesting to see how Douglas County moves forward on this point.
  • What will research show as the primary results the Douglas County scholarship program has on students? Of course, the answer to this question well may take the longest to discern. But as I pointed out before, studying the program’s unique features should yield some valuable insights.

Yes, the Board’s March 15 vote to adopt the program was a big victory and big news. But I’m not done paying attention: no, sir. At 5 years old, I’m standing on the ground floor to watch this exciting new program unfold. And there are a lot of details and angles to continue watching in the weeks and months ahead.