Study: Denver School Choice Policies Are Best Among Nation’s Big Cities

Published March 4, 2016

A report published by the Brookings Institution says Denver, Colorado has the most pro-school choice policies in the nation, compared to similarly-sized districts.

The report, published in February, cites Denver’s facilitation of school comparison websites and its single application process for both charter schools and their traditional counterparts as reasons for the high ranking. In its 2015 report, Brookings ranked Denver as fifth-best in choice policies.

The Brookings Institution report suggests Denver could improve further by requiring “every family to choose in order for their child to enroll, just as every district requires, for example, evidence of vaccinations.”

Spearheading ‘Important Reforms’

Ross Izard, an education policy analyst with the Independence Institute, says Denver is embracing school choice and empowering parents.

“Opening school options and a unified choice system comparing schools really bumped Denver up,” Izard said. “A few months before this came out, a report from the Fordham Institute echoed a lot that the Brookings Institution did. Denver spearheaded important reforms and political progress.”

Always Room for Improvement

Izard says Colorado is leading the nation in promoting school choice, but there are still things lawmakers could do better.

“Colorado has always been at the forefront of public school choice, charter schools, and open enrollment, but we are still behind the power curve when it comes to private school choice,” Izard said. “The state’s constitution contains the Blaine Amendment, which is interpreted to limit programs that may fund religious-affiliated institutions. Vouchers are tough to pass, but perhaps tax credit scholarships could pass to open up private school choice.”

‘Pretty Strong Bipartisan Support’

Nora Flood, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the state’s charter schools by providing information and resources, says several factors have come together to make the state relatively friendly to school choice.

“There are a few statewide things that lend themselves to school choice and parent choice and opportunity,” Flood said. “One, we are very much a purple state, so we enjoy pretty strong bipartisan support for parental choice, charter schools, and quality schools for kids. I think the other is we are a strong local-control state, and so I think that also speaks to parents who choose what school meets their children’s needs and their families’ priorities … and recognizing that may or may not be their traditional public school.”

Ashley Bateman ([email protected]) writes from Alexandria, Virginia.

Internet Info:

Grover J. Whitehurst, Brookings Institution, “Education Choice and Competition Index 2015,” February 1, 2015: