Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Struggle Over School Choice In Colorado

Board Member Christen
All over America, a variety of groups are fighting for the right to send their children to the school of their choice. In Colorado Springs, Colorado, the struggle has taken some very interesting turns during the past few months.

Colorado Springs District 11 board meetings have drawn packed houses as members have considered but never voted on items such as a resolution to support "stable, heterosexual, two-parent families." There has also been a lot of discussion about expelling Planned Parenthood from teaching sex-education in schools; and an effort to replace a moment of silence at each [board] meeting with an invocation.
It sounds like things are hopping up there in Colorado. Debate of these social issues is just a "warm-up" for a much larger battle that looms ahead. Liberals are saying that the real agenda of a 3-member "block" on this board is the implementation of a voucher system, much like that which has been in effect for the last 14 years in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin public school system. [The Milwaukee system allows about 100,000 students to have freedom of choice regarding which school they attend.]

In November 2003, a group of 4 board members were elected just with that goal in mind. These were: Willie Breazell, Craig Cox, Sandy Shakes, and Eric Christen. However, control of the 7-member board did not stay with the "reformers" very long, because one of them, ex-teacher Sandy Shakes, defected to the opposition when the reform group targeted the teachers union.

That leaves the board divided on the question of school choice. There are four governing board members opposed to vouchers, and three in favor. What makes this issue highly interesting is that three (of the four) seats belonging to the anti-voucher group will be open next November.

So the question of whether or not Colorado Springs District 11 will become the first district in the western states to offer parents school choice has been postponed until November of 2005.

It will be interesting to see if the voters in Colorado Springs will choose to ignore what will undoubtedly be a well-financed propaganda campaign staged by teachers unions who have a long record of opposing any plan offering school choice. Or will the voters elect board members committed to giving parents the freedom to choose what is best for their children.