Diana and Mark Oakley
Diana and Mark Oakley have three children—Nathaniel (“Nate”), Amber and Joshua. Amber and Joshua attended Eagle Ridge Elementary, a Douglas County public school, and the Oakleys were happy to keep them there. But Nate, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, did not fare so well.
When Nate was in fifth grade, the administration at Eagle Ridge informed Diana and Mark that the school would not provide Nate a paraprofessional. Not surprisingly, Nate failed to make adequate progress that year, and Diana and Mark made the difficult decision to have him repeat fifth grade. Things did not improve the following year. In sixth grade, the school did provide a paraprofessional, but she was not devoted to Nate exclusively and was only in the classroom part time. Nate continued to struggle.
Toward the end of sixth grade, after enduring more than a year of relentless bullying, Nate was physically assaulted by a fellow student. After the incident, the school finally provided Nate a dedicated paraprofessional. But if Nate remained in the public school system, he would attend Crest Hill Middle School the following year, and the administration there informed the Oakleys that he would not have a paraprofessional.
Accordingly, the Oakleys applied for and received a scholarship for Nate under the Choice Scholarship Program, and Nate was accepted by Humanex Academy: a small, non-religious private school that works with children with special needs and was approved to participate in the program. Nate attended classes at Humanex as a guest for several days before the Oakleys applied and they were very impressed with everything about it, from its small size to the fact that it uses only natural lighting, as artificial light can be problematic for students with Asperger’s. Without the scholarship, sending Nate to Humanex would have been financially impossible for the Oakleys.
Defending Parents’ Right to Choose Their Children’s Schools: Douglas County, Colorado’s Innovative Scholarship Program Is Constitutional
In Colorado, Douglas County created an innovative school choice program that offers modest scholarships to hundreds of students at a fraction of the cost of getting a public school education.