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Douglas County Schools Vote To Move Forward With Vouchers

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS) - Parents in Douglas County packed a school board meeting on Tuesday to weigh in on the plan to use vouchers in the district.

The Douglas County School Board voted unanimously to move forward with a voucher program. The vouchers would allow students to attend the school of their choice, whether public or private.

Dozens of Douglas County residents voiced strong opinions on both sides.

"I think that this would help destroy the public school system," one person at the meeting said.

"You do not know all the answers, but I encourage you to commit to this idea, and then we'll all partner to make the choice a good one," resident Kendal Unruh said.

Under the program, Douglas County students who want to attend a private school would receive a voucher equal to the private school tuition, or 75 percent of their student funding. That's equal to around $5,000. The other 25 percent of the money would stay in the district.

"Just because we don't live in the inner city, we should be allowed to have and select those options for what we feel is best for our children, and school vouchers will do that," one meeting attendee said.

Opponents said the program will drain money from an already strong county, and mix public funding with religious institutions.

"I think Douglas County Schools are recognized as being very good schools, and we should just work on improving them. If you keep cutting and cutting and cutting into bone, eventually these schools won't be good," resident Steve Faulkner said.

After Tuesday's vote, the heated issue will move on with the board handing its recommendations to the superintendant.

Douglas County School Board members said the overall process could take several months. The next step is to figure out the legal and financial implications of vouchers and if private schools are even interested in participating in the program.

"There's a lot of work that needs to be done in order to review, analyze and determine what would be best for the Douglas County School District," said Douglas County Schools spokeswoman Susan Meek.

Douglas County had to cut $26 million from its budget this school year. More cuts are expected next year. Supporters say the voucher program could bring in badly needed money. Critics disagree.

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