Front Range Christian School (FRCS), a parochial school based in Littleton, Colorado, has implemented its own version of a school voucher program, calling their privately funded education system “Freedom Vouchers.”
The FRCS website says Freedom Vouchers, undergoing their initial launch this year, are intentioned to “support every family’s freedom to choose the best education for their child.” Freedom Vouchers are “100% privately funded by Front Range Christian School and generous partners.” Donations to the voucher program are tax-deductible because FRCS has nonprofit status.
Parents can use Freedom Vouchers to help cover tuition costs only. Vouchers for the 2016-17 school year will be granted to up to 50 eligible students who attended a public school in the 2015-16 school year. Students must complete a financial aid application, and the amount a child receives depends on a number of factors such as financial need and past academic performance.
FRCS states on its website, “no such program is currently offered by the state of Colorado.” A voucher program launched by the Douglas County School District in 2011 was struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court, and in March 2016, the Douglas County School Board voted to reinstate the voucher program but exclude religious schools. FRCS says the ruling was one of the reasons they chose to launch the Freedom Voucher program now, “to support families and their right to choose a faith-based school for their child.”
Bridging the Cost
FRCS Director of Advancement Mark Aalund says the Freedom Voucher program is about making private school education more accessible.
“These vouchers are encouraging parents to send their children to a private school,” Aalund said. “This voucher bridges the cost. We are trying to lower the barrier.”
Public to Private
“It’s a specifically targeted program,” Aalund said. “Our efforts are to help families make the effort to switch from public to private schools.”
Ross Izard, senior education policy analyst for the Denver-based Independence Institute, says Freedom Vouchers are especially important in light of the Douglas County ruling.
“I think this program is a reflection of innovation and a dedication to educational choice in the face of adversity,” Izard said. “Colorado’s ability to pass publicly funded voucher programs is severely constrained by our state constitution’s discriminatory Blaine Amendment, which prohibits the provision of aid to ‘sectarian’ institutions.
“I respect and admire any effort to expand educational options for students in Colorado,” Izard said. “The Freedom Voucher program does precisely that, and I applaud Front Range Christian School’s efforts to support educational freedom in our state,” said Izard.
Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.