Thar’s Choice in Them Thar Hills

Will DougCo voters choose the right choice?

It’s election season in America’s choiciest locale, Douglas County, Colorado, USA. And that can only mean one thing: DougCo residents will soon be making a choice about choice. But will they make the right choice? And is there someone, or better yet, many someones who can descend upon DougCo in order to help them choose wisely? Reader: saddle up the ponies and prepare the choice wagons—we’re headed west.

Cheddar for choice

In just a matter of weeks, voters will choose their choice for DougCo School Board. The contest has set off a veritable *choice rush* among the nation’s pre-eminent school choice advocates, few of whom actually live in DougCo. First the Brothers Koch, among the nation’s choosiest choosers, got in on the action, kicking in $50K to support their chosen candidate. They were joined by the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, which sent $25K worth of Wisconsin-aged cheddar to support choice in DougCo. Not to be outdone, Texas’ C3 Solutions—all three of the C’s stand for *choice*—is throwing its support behind the current choice-loving School Board. Even conservative Christian Focus on the Family is taking time away from its crusade against the choice of homosexual marriage to urge DougCo voters to choose choice.

Betting on choice
And don’t forget the celebrities of the choice world. In recent weeks such luminaries as Rick “Cage Buster” Hess of the American Enterprise Institute and William “Bill” Bennett, the very same Bill Bennett who will soon be receiving a 2013 EdReformie award, have taken to the airwaves in order to promote the choice of choice. Their promotional tour included this video as well as an appearance by Hess on Bennett’s radio show, Morning in America, where the two chatted up choice. Bennett even traveled to DougCo to throw his weight behind the choice choice, talking Transformative Education in Colorado at a local Chamber of Commerce. Choice doesn’t come cheap though; tickets to the event started at $500. Note: if you missed Bennett’s appearance, be sure to check out his forthcoming book on, what else?, school reform in Douglas County, Colorado. UPDATE: news reports indicate that both Bennett and Hess are being paid by the Douglas County School Board.

Choice of America
Why the sudden agreement among choice choosers that DougCo is the top choice? Simple, reader. You see DougCo, the 8th most affluent county in these United States, is the first suburban school district to go full choice. Regular EduShyster readers will recall that under chief choicemaker Elizabeth Celania-Fagan, the DougCo schools have embraced a BluePrint for Choice, choosing charter choice, voucher choice and a new system of nouveau niche schools guaranteed to please even the choosiest choosers. This has choicetivists breathing heavy. For if suburban parents can be convinced to throw over their neighborhood schools in favor of a veritable smorgasbord of choice, what’s to say the DougCo experiment can’t be replicated in all sort of schools districts—like yours, for example?

Some choice words
There’s just one little problem, reader. You see, while everyone agrees that choice is the right choice for DougCo, especially choosers who don’t actually live there, someone forgot to tell the parents whose children attend DougCo schools. In fact, several of these parents have some rather, ahem, choice words for the choice advocates who’ve got DougCo’s schools in their sites. The parents particularly object to the characterization of their district as a “terrific laborator[y] for bold solutions.” Here’s how one DougCo mom put it:

My children are not lab rats. Their education isn’t an experiment. My kids don’t get a do-over. They get one chance at an education, one chance to learn, one chance to grow. And right now, Douglas County is cheating them out of their one chance.

Another mother says that her concerns about the leadership of the DougCo schools are now so numerous that, like Bill Bennett, she could write a book:

I could go on and on, but then I would write a book. All I know is, if something doesn’t change with the direction our school district is heading, I will be pulling my kids from DougCo and sending them to another school district or home schooling them because it is extremely important to me that my kids get a excellent education and, thanks to the current administration of DougCo, that is not happening.

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  1. thank you for coming to help..
    the big question is, are there enough partisans and eager voucher-supporters in DougCo to keep this school board in ?
    I really fear that there are..

  2. The thing that concerns me most about the use of the term “choice” is that Colorado already has school choice. Parents can send children to their neighborhood school, a different neighborhood school, a charter school or options schools. They can even opt to enroll their children in neighborhood/charter/options schools outside their district. We have plenty of choice. The Douglas County election is about VOUCHERS and private schools. It’s not about choice, which we’ll continue to have in abundance in Colorado.

    1. As a clarification, I’m concerned that voters might be taken in by the concern that the already-existing statewide school choices would be eliminated if they don’t choose “choice.” I hope those opposing the bill can take on that terminology to call it what it really is: about vouchers.

  3. To clarify, the event at which Secretary Bennett spoke was free for attendees. As a parent of children in Douglas County schools, I am appalled that the fundraising arm of the district is funneling money away from classrooms into political activities.

    1. And who pocketed the $500 per ticket? Did you know the treasurer of this fundraising arm, the DCEF, didn’t know about the $50,000 that has been spent to have Mr. Bennett as a “consultant” for our district? DCEF’s funds are supposed to be used to support teachers and students in the classroom, not fund campaign speeches (let’s call it what it really was) and the furthering of political agendas. And this board has the audacity to accuse the UNION of keeping money out of classrooms. Sickening.

      1. Thanks for your comment. According to its bylaws, the Douglas County Educational Foundation “is a community nonprofit corporation organized solely to operate for educational and charitable purposes and is to solicit, receive, or enlist
        financial aid from individuals or organizations for the benefit of the students in the Douglas County public schools.” I’d love to know more about the treasure’s professed ignorance. You can tell me all about it when I come for a visit this weekend! DougCo: here I come 🙂

        1. I was a comment on one of the many threads about Bill Bennett’s speech and DCEF’s involvement to the tune of $50,000. I tried to go back and find the source, but was unsuccessful. I’ll let you know if I find it.

      2. Oops. Wendy Vogel, I hit reply to your message, but meant to “reply” to the article. I didn’t read your comment until after I posted mine. Wonder where the author got the idea that tickets were $500? Still appalling that these funds are being misused.

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