School choice in Colorado
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|School choice state information|
- 1 Educational choice options
- 2 Studies and reports
- 3 School choice ballot measures
- 4 Recent news
- 5 See also
- 6 References
School choice refers to the educational alternatives available to parents who do not wish to send their children to the local district public schools to which they are assigned. Public school choice options include open enrollment policies, magnet schools and charter schools. Other options include traditional school vouchers, scholarship tax credits, personal tax credits and deductions and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which allow parents to receive public funds directly for educational expenses.
School choice options in Colorado include: charter schools, a limited, location-specific voucher program, open enrollment policies and online learning programs. In addition, about 6.50 percent of school age children in the state attended private schools in the 2011-12 academic year, and an estimated 2.67 percent were homeschooled in 2012-13.
Educational choice options
- See also: Charter schools in Colorado
According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in the 2012-13 academic year there were 186 charter schools operating in Colorado. During that time, charter schools enrolled 89,451 students.
Charter school authorizers are, according to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the organizations "designated to approve, monitor, renew, and, if necessary, close charter schools." As of June 2014, the organizations in the following table were listed by NACSA as charter school authorizers in Colorado:
|Colorado charter school authorizers|
|Organization||Authorizer type||Number of schools overseen|
|Academy School District 20||Local education agency||4|
|Adams 12 Five Star Schools||Local education agency||7|
|Adams County School District 50||Local education agency||1|
|Aspen School District||Local education agency||1|
|Aurora Public Schools||Local education agency||6|
|Bennett 29J School District||Local education agency||1|
|Boulder Valley School District||Local education agency||5|
|Brighton 27J School District||Local education agency||6|
|Calhan School District RJ-1||Local education agency||1|
|Canon City School District RE-1||Local education agency||1|
|Cherry Creek School District||Local education agency||1|
|Cheyenne Mountain School District 12||Local education agency||1|
|Clear Creek School District RE-1||Local education agency||1|
|Colorado Charter School Institute||Independent chartering board||23|
|Colorado Springs School District 11||Local education agency||7|
|Denver Public Schools||Local education agency||36|
|Douglas County School District RE 1||Local education agency||11|
|Eagle County School District||Local education agency||1|
|East Grand School District||Local education agency||1|
|Elizabeth School District||Local education agency||1|
|Falcon School District||Local education agency||6|
|Greeley-Evans Weld County School District 6||Local education agency||4|
|Gunnison Watershed School District||Local education agency||1|
|Harrison 2 School District||Local education agency||4|
|Jeffco Public School District R-1||Local education agency||14|
|Johnstown Milliken RE-5J School District||Local education agency||1|
|Lamar School District RE-2||Local education agency||1|
|Lewis Palmer School District 38||Local education agency||1|
|Littleton Public Schools||Local education agency||2|
|Mapleton Public Schools||Local education agency||1|
|Mesa County Valley Public Schools||Local education agency||2|
|Moffat County School District||Local education agency||1|
|Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1||Local education agency||2|
|Montrose County School District||Local education agency||2|
|Park County School District||Local education agency||2|
|Poudre School District||Local education agency||3|
|Pueblo City Schools||Local education agency||3|
|Pueblo County Rural Schools District 70||Local education agency||3|
|Roaring Fork School District||Local education agency||2|
|Saint Vrain Valley School District||Local education agency||6|
|Steamboat Springs School District||Local education agency||1|
|Strasburg School District 31J||Local education agency||1|
|Thompson School District R-2J||Local education agency||2|
|Weld County School District RE-3J||Local education agency||1|
|West End Public Schools||Local education agency||1|
|Widefield School District 3||Local education agency||1|
|Windsor School District RE-4||Local education agency||1|
| Note: If the total number of charter schools accounted for in this table differs from the total number listed elsewhere on this page, the discrepancy owes to differing calculation methods and data sources.|
Source: National Association of Charter School Authorizers, "Colorado Charter Authorizers," accessed June 18, 2014
Magnet schools, sometimes called theme-based schools, are public schools of choice that use a specialized subject area or innovative learning approach to attract students from more diverse backgrounds. In fact, magnet schools began as a way to desegregate public schools through choice rather than force. Magnet schools can reach beyond the barriers of school districts, but they are still managed and funded publicly by local districts, even though they are centered around specialized themes and subjects.
In the 2011-2012 school year, there were 2,949 magnet schools in the United States. In that year, Colorado had 24 magnet schools that served 10,833 students. Approximately 61% percent of students enrolled in Colorado magnet schools were classified as a minority. That percentage of students was predominately Hispanic. This was higher than Colorado's average of 44 percent minority enrollment. The state also reported an average student:teacher ratio of 18:1 in magnet schools, which is higher than the state average of 15:1 in traditional public schools. The table below lists this information again and compares it to Colorado's neighboring states.
|Magnet school participation, 2011-2012|
|State||Magnet schools in the state||Students in magnet schools||Minority enrollment percentage||Student:teacher ratio|
|Wyoming||No data available|
|Source: Public School Review, "Public School Review state magnet school pages," accessed December 12, 2014|
The state has one school voucher program: the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Pilot Program. Under the program, 500 tuition vouchers are provided that may be used at a participating private school (vouchers cannot be used for online schools or homeschooling). Any public school student who has spent at least one year enrolled in the Douglas County School District is eligible. As of June 2014, the program is on hiatus pending a decision by the state supreme court.
Colorado operates a state-led, supplemental online learning program, Colorado Online Learning. In addition, there are fully virtual learning programs that operate across district boundaries and district-level programs (both fully virtual and supplemental). As of July 2013, the following programs were available:
- 5 multi-district charters
- 21 multi-district schools
- 11 single-district schools
- 17 single-district programs
In the 2011-12 school year, 55,496 students, or 6.50 percent of school age children, were enrolled in 386 private schools. Colorado ranks 39th highest in the nation in private school attendance.
Public school open enrollment
According to the Education Commission of the States, Colorado has both intra-district and inter-district open enrollment policies. Under the state's intra-district/mandatory and inter-district/voluntary policy, low income students in grades one through eight may be eligible for transportation tokens to attend a different school in their own district or a school in another district.
In Colorado in 2012-2013 an estimated 23,843 students, or 2.67 percent of the total student-aged population, were homeschooled.
A summary of the state's laws relating to homeschooling can be accessed here.
Studies and reports
Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
In 2014 the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice published a description of and commentary on school choice options in the United States. Regarding the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Pilot Program, the foundation said, "The Choice Scholarship Pilot Program, the nation’s only voucher program authorized by a public school district, allows any child attending a Douglas County public school to be eligible for a voucher. Still, the innovative program could improve in several areas. First, the program is too limited by the 500-student cap. Second, Douglas County’s vouchers treat private school students unfairly by funding them significantly below what they would get in their local public schools. Finally, numerous regulations have been imposed on private schools that accept voucher students. Participating private schools must (1) show that students are achieving and growing academically to remain eligible, (2) provide three years of financial history, (3) release students for state or district assessments, and (4) allow voucher students to opt-out of any religious activities. For the program to grow, district leaders should consider removing the enrollment cap, increasing the per-voucher funding amount, and giving private schools more autonomy."
The full report can be accessed here.
School choice ballot measures
Ballotpedia has tracked the following statewide ballot measures relating to school choice.
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Colorado + Education + Choice"
- All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.
- Colorado state budget and finances
- Colorado Department of Education
- Colorado school districts
- Charter schools in Colorado
- Education policy in the U.S.
- National Conference of State Legislatures, "School Choice and Charters," accessed June 18, 2014
- Friedman Foundation for School Choice, "What is School Choice?" accessed June 18, 2014
- National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, "Total Number of Students - Colorado," accessed June 19, 2014
- National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, "Total Number of Schools - Colorado," accessed June 19, 2014
- National Association of Charter School Authorizers, "Colorado Charter Authorizers," accessed June 18, 2014
- Public School Review, "What is a magnet school?" accessed December 9, 2014
- Magnet Schools of America, "What are magnet schools?" accessed December 9, 2014
- National Center for Education Statistics, "Selected statistics from the common core of data: School year 2011-2012," accessed December 12, 2014
- Public School Review, "Colorado magnet schools," accessed December 12, 2014
- The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, "Colorado - Douglas County Choice Scholarship Pilot Program," accessed June 19, 2014
- Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning, "Colorado," accessed June 19, 2014
- U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "Private School Universe Survey (PSS)", 2011-12 ; "Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey, v.1a.," accessed May 12, 2014
- Education Commission of the States, "Open Enrollment: 50-State Report," accessed June 19, 2014
- A2Z Home's Cool, "Number of Homeschoolers in the USA," updated February 2, 2014
- The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, "The ABCs of School Choice - 2014 Edition," accessed June 18, 2014
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