Innovators in Action: Transforming Education in Douglas County, Colorado

Everybody’s talking about education reform and it’s easy to understand why. America’s education system is outdated and broken. While national leaders opine on the subject, a groundbreaking transformation is underway at the local level in Douglas County, Colorado. Douglas County is a short drive south of Denver, but its education community (including students, parents, teachers and administrators) is stealing the spotlight from Colorado’s capital city.

There are no simple answers to reforming the education system, so I sat down with Douglas County School District Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen to discuss in detail what’s happening on the ground in her district. This interview is the latest in Reason Foundation’s Innovators in Action 2012 series, highlights from the interview include:

  • The first-ever district-led school choice program, known as the Choice Scholarship Pilot Program, for 500 students in the 2011-12 school year;
  • The subsequent legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union over the Choice Scholarship Pilot Program;
  • The district’s decision to not sign an exclusive bargaining agreement with a teacher’s union that would represent the entire district;
  • The broader twenty-seven strategy approach to reforming the education system, including things like performance-based pay and principal empowerment; and much more.

Simply put, this interview is a must-read — check it out online here.

[Note to readers: In previous years, we have published Innovators in Action in an annual report format, the last edition having been released in early 2010. The publication has been on a temporary hiatus since then, but we have resumed publication in a slightly different format. In order to deliver timely content to our readers on a more frequent schedule, we’re publishing one Innovators article per month on Other articles featured in the Innovators in Action 2012 series are available here.]

Harris Kenny is a state and local government policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a non-profit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Harris has worked alongside policymakers in Colorado, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Oregon and elsewhere to implement public policy solutions. Harris is currently serving as a member of the Local Authority Working Group of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's Amendment 64 Task Force, which is providing guidance on implementing recreational marijuana legalization. He conducts research on public finance, public-private partnerships, privatization, public safety, criminal justice and regulatory policy issues.

Harris has appeared on various television and radio outlets, such as National Public Radio, HuffPost Live, Al Jazeera, Voice of Russia and Colorado Public Television. His writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Denver Post, The Sacramento Bee, The Orange County Register, Real Clear Markets,, and other print and online outlets. He also serves as co-editor of Reason Foundation's Annual Privatization Report ( and Innovators in Action ( publications.

Prior to joining Reason Foundation, Harris worked at the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. He earned a BA in Economics from Pepperdine University, where he worked as a research assistant to Dr. Luisa Blanco at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy.

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