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Monday, November 22, 2010

School Voucher Debate Worth Watching

From the Wall Street Journal: Douglas County, Colorado's School Board is debating a voucher plan that, by all means, is unique, both because of the proposals contained within and because of the demographics of the district. The district is a rather affluent one and schools rank high. There are 56,000 district students, and 4,000 private school or home schooled students. The median family income tops $105,000. The district includes 65 schools, 9 charter schools, 2 magnet schools, and 1 online school. Private schooling in the county is limited. With only one very small exception (a 21 student school), all private schools that go beyond the 1st grade are faith based.

Given the demographics, having a voucher proposal on the table is surprising.

Beyond the demographics, what makes the proposal of note includes the following:

1. the proposal would allow faith-based school to allow admissions based on faith,
2. (under consideration) is a proposal that would allows students to remain public school students while opting to take certain courses through private schools and/or private educators,
3. (under consideration) is a proposal that would expand public-funding for home schooled students.

Public opinion is mixed, especially on subsidizing private instructors for classes outside the regular curriculum as many parents already hire tutors for their children out-of-pocket.

The voucher plan proposal would subsidize students in private settings up to $5,000.

I don't have any comments on the story, except to note that the $5000 supposedly would cover 35-100% of tuition in the local private schools. Clearly there is good range of prices for private school consumers in the area and should a voucher proposal pass and be implemented, it would be interesting to see what happens to the private schools when government money (and regulation) gets injected into the market. I hope to watch this debate and I hope the private schools will weigh in.

Also, does anyone know what county the frum Denver schools are located?

Some reading that might be of interest:
Vouchers, and why a Conservative Might be Ambivalent
Economics and Education (ideas of Thomas Sowell)


Selena said...

All the frum schools are in Denver County, but I would be willing to move to Douglas County... :)

Anonymous said...

Five years from now, the Orthodox schools will be very different.

Shoshana Z. said...

I'm right behind you... Tell me when you're ready to go house-hunting! ;)

Shoshana Z. said...

Selena said...

Right, Shoshana....We could all move to Castle Rock, get nice big houses for the price of our tiny shacks here...Maybe Daniel will open a school. :)

Shoshana Z. said...

Woo hoo!

Bara said...

I would do it in a minute. Castle Rock is beautiful. Sign me up.

Not a fan said...

My bet: If tuition is $5k and the govt voucher is $5k, tuition will quickly go to $10k.

Anonymous said...

Shoshana, from previous posts you have shown yourself to be a dedicated homeschooler - would you really give up homeschooling if school were cheap or free? More to the point, are you homeschooling just because tuition is too high, or are you ideologically in favor of homeschooling?

Shoshana Z. said...

@Anonymous- Good questions. I would not give up homeschooling for cheap/free school. I would be lying to say that one of the major factors in our choice is high tuition. I'm not ashamed to say that I will not benefit from a service or product that I cannot afford. Private school tuition is no within reach for our family, so we haven't reached for it. Based on 7 years at home learning with my kids I can tell you emphatically that it is the right choice for our family. And it might well be for others as well. But I do not see it as anything but a very statistically small option in the face of the overwhelming challenges present in both the Jewish private and public school systems.

I am also extremely allergic to the idea of school vouchers, including support for homeschoolers. It was our choice to remove our children from the standard school system and therefore the financial burden is on us. There are no tax breaks or public funding for homeschooling where we live and I'm fine with that. Accepting money means accepting certain types of oversight and interference that I would find challenging as I create the kind of creative and far-reaching learning experiences that I want for my kids.

But I would follow a dedicated kehilla to a cheaper and nicer area of our state. As a homeschooling family, we need the support system of a good Jewish community more than you can imagine. The costs associated with our neighborhood are quite significant in relation to the return on housing, quality of life, etc.

Shoshana Z. said...

@Anonymous - I wrote a great comment that didn't post. So here is another attempt. We are very committed to homeschooling and would not trade it in even for cheap or free schooling. And yes, one of the many factors involved in our learning choice is the fact that we cannot pay tuition. My husband and I are not afraid to turn down something that we cannot afford. I am also very allergic to the idea of school vouchers. Our state does not compensate us at all for homeschooling, nor do we receive any tax breaks or refunds for it. Nor do I think we should. It was our choice to leave the publicly funded system and we are prepared to shoulder the burden of that.

In terms of moving to a new part of our state, I would definitely do it! Our income would go a lot further and we would enjoy a better standard of living. And I would be very happy to venture out with Jewish families who were like-minded in their desire to live a more manageable Jewishly-committed life.

Abba's Rantings said...


do you home school for limude kodesh?

Shoshana Z. said...

@Abba's Rantings: Yes we do. My oldest son gets up early every morning to attend our shul's morning minyan and learn with my husband for appx. an hour. I do Hebrew with everyone at home along with holidays, halachos, etc. Its great for me because I am regularly learning things that I would probably never have the time to touch otherwise.

Chavi Beck said...

I love seeing your posts, Shoshana. Homeschooling fascinates me. How old is your oldest son? Are any of your other children old enough for chumash?