Local Parents Respond To Possible Elimination Of Douglas County School Choice Program

Local parents and guardians in Douglas County are beginning to voice their side of the story in the heated debate over the district’s school choice pilot project. The Choice Scholarship Program has been placed on hold following a Denver Court ruling last year. The action was initiated by a complaint-turned-lawsuit filed by the ACLU, Taxpayers for Public Education, and a teachers’ union — the American Federation of Teachers.

The plaintiffs in the case argue that grants for students to attend schools of their choice as suited to their needs are not the proper use of public education dollars. However, parents involved with the grants are ready to step up to the plate and call the recent legal action foul play on behalf of unions and special interest groups.

Derrick Doyle is one such father, who also happens to be a union member in another field due to his career choice. Doyle explained that “it’s an absolute hypocrisy to have these kinds of groups intervene. While they are receiving special status and government funding, others needing a little assistance are rejected.”

“One would think a group like the ACLU would be all for something like this program — protecting our rights and freedom of choice. But when we don’t agree on what those are they suddenly aren’t really our rights anymore. I find it really offensive,” Doyle concluded.

Meredith Rudolph is the mother of a child who qualifies for a grant as a Douglas County student, but she chose to allow someone else the opportunity to take advantage of it, saying, “Many others are a lot more in need of it than we are.” When asked about the involvement of outside groups in the lawsuit, Rudolph replied, “Oh, once the ACLU got involved that was it. Everyone knows their tactics and the big money that flows in whenever their organization steps in.”

Yesterday marked one month after the bargain rights contract between the Douglas County School Board and the local union branch of the American Federation of Teachers expired. According to Karin Piper of Parent Led Reform, Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT) remained silent on the school choice grant program battle before the teachers’ union monopoly ended on July 1. They have just now recently become one of the leading voices against the Choice Scholarship Program.

“The DCFT would have you think they were completely neutral when it came to the voucher program,” Piper said. “They didn’t discuss it publicly during their negotiations battle, but now that the contract is up they have brought it to the table.”

Parents remain confident though that the school choice scholarships are clearly in the best interest of the “real people” of Douglas County. Doyles, who at one point had three of his children enrolled in Douglas County Schools, gave an example of why.

“We are the ‘in-betweeners,'” he said.  “We make enough money to not qualify for other scholarships for our kids, but not enough money to actually afford some of these other school choices. What Douglas County is doing makes this possible.”

He added that it should be clear that he does not have a bad relationship with the public school system in the district, either. “We have many good connections and ties to our district public schools. For me, this simply comes down to choice — the ability to help get your kid where he needs to be.”

Piper believes that it is crucial to remember what is being discussed in the midst of the grant program banter.  “What we are really talking about here are kids, not vouchers,” she said.

“So many people hear of this and think all this is happening over slips of paper and bills — but it’s not,” Piper concluded. “These all represent hundreds of actual students and families along with the community interested in their educational futures. This is the true side of the issue at stake in Douglas County.”


Edited at 2:07AM, August 3, 2012: First paragraph corrected to read “Denver Court ruling last year”, not “Denver Court ruling last month.”

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