Colorado Groups Seek School Choice Options

Published May 1, 2000

Two new grassroots group of parents and community leaders met at the State Capitol in Denver on March 15 to share ideas on political activism and to show their support for a pilot school choice program they had designed for Colorado. The event brought hundreds of minority parents to the State Capitol.

Based on the successful program implemented in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the proposed legislation would allow low-income parents to redirect some of their child’s education tax dollars to the public, private, or religious school of their choice.

Colorado Springs for School Choice is a citizen effort to provide low-income parents with educational options other than the local public school. Formed in partnership with the Indianapolis-based Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation, CSSC’s board members include Henry Allen, Willie Breazell, Tasha Tillman, the Rev. Alvin Yeary, and Dr. Clara Walton.

Breazell was the head of the Colorado Springs chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons until last summer, when he was abruptly fired after writing a newspaper article in favor of school choice. Last November, he visited Milwaukee to examine that city’s voucher program with a delegation of parents from CSSC and the second grassroots group, Children Having Opportunity In Colorado Education.

The CHOICE group is led by noted Denver activists Nita Gonzales, Rich Gonzales, Cec Ortiz, Dale Sadler, Pierre Jimenez, the Rev. A.L. Bowman, Vivian Wilson, and Booker Graves. CHOICE believes that poor and inner-city families need empowerment to make better educational choices for their children, and that giving more choice to parents will accelerate badly needed reforms in failing schools.

As a recent editorial in The Colorado Springs Gazette noted, poor children usually have the fewest educational opportunities, forced to attend schools with the lowest test scores and the most significant discipline problems.

Parents who want their children in a better academic environment in a private school, or who seek to place them in more spiritual surroundings at a parochial school, “have enough of a challenge even if they’re middle-income earners.” Poor parents generally must make do with their local public school, regardless of its quality.