HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – Hundreds of parents and teachers turned out to debate a plan to bring vouchers to Douglas County schools on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s meeting at Ranchview Middle School was the first of three hearings on the proposal to use public money for private school education.

Under the superintendent’s plan, Douglas County students looking to attend a private school would receive a voucher equal to 75 percent of their student funding. That’s equal to about $4,500 a year. The other 25 percent would stay in the district.

Supporters said that the voucher program would simply extend a student’s choice for education.

“We have a wonderful district here and we have all kinds of choices. It’s kind of the last item on the menu and we’re innovative and we’d like to see every student served to the max,” voucher supporter Charcie Russell said.

Opponents asked why the proposal would be looked at now. Colorado’s $1.5 billion budget shortfall translates into a $12 million cut for Douglas County schools. Voucher opponents said that the program would only drain more money from one of the highest performing districts in Colorado.

“I just think it’s a lot of time and effort we don’t need to be using for this kind of thing,” voucher opponent Wendy Vogel said.

As the plan moves forward, the Douglas County School Board has promises regarding the final product.

“A financial analysis has been conducted and you’ll see that there is nothing that we would look to do that would be harmful to the school district,” Douglas County Schools spokesperson Susan Meeks  said.

Under the plan 500 students would qualify for the school vouchers with the stipulation that they would need to be a student in Douglas County for at least a year.

The next meeting is on Wednesday at Cimarron Middle School in Parker. The final meeting will be Thursday night at Castle Rock Middle School.

The district hopes to present a final plan to the school board on March 8.