The Democratic former president of the state Senate has weighed in on Douglas County’s lively education debate with a paper that approves of the district’s education reforms.

Peter Groff now runs MCG2 Consulting in Virginia and travels widely speaking and consulting on education issues. Groff represented northeast Denver districts in the House and Senate from 2000 to 2009 and was elected Senate president in 2007. He left the legislature in 2009 to take a position at the U.S. Department of Education.

Former House Speaker Terrance Carroll and Groff were the leading Democratic voices for educational choice and charter schools in the legislature during the first part of the last decade.

Groff’s seven-page review of Dougco, titled “The Impact of a World Class Education,” covers largely familiar ground about Colorado education reform and Dougco’s efforts to expand parent choice (including a voucher plan), create new evaluation systems for district personnel and change academic standards so that they meet international benchmarks.

“Even districts with relatively high achievement scores, low academic gaps and middle class and wealthy families must respond to the challenges and the expectations of parents with choice and innovative options,” Groff wrote. “Douglas County is one such district.”

Noting the district’s relatively high achievement results, he continued, “Whereas many districts with that type of relative success would be satisfied, DSCD has pursued a transformative effort to overturn a system it has seemingly mastered because it realized the current results are not preparing its graduates to compete in the global economy.”

Peter Groff - File photo
Peter Groff – File photo

Discussing the economic implications of a well-educated workforce, the paper concludes, “DCSD’s innovation and commitment to give all students a world-class education by using all means necessary will ensure the continued success and greatness of Colorado and America.”

During a visit with EdNews Tuesday, Groff said he got interested in doing the paper at the suggestion of a Republican former Senate colleague, Josh Penry.

Groff said he thinks Dougco is now far enough along in its choice program that schools can truly attend to individual student needs, and that “Denver is close to being able to be in that position.”

The voucher, or scholarship, element of Dougco’s program is being challenged in the courts. Groff said he thinks “It still works” without vouchers, but one group of parents will be left out – those who feel their children’s needs are best met in private schools – if the voucher program ultimately is tossed out.

Groff said he initially was skeptical of vouchers but feels the Dougco program meets the tests of being accountable, accessible and affordable. He credits the district’s system of forming partnerships with private schools for that.

The Dougco Republican Party has been heavily involved in school board elections for the last four years. Asked about that, Groff said such partisan involvement “generally is a bad thing.” But he noted Denver school board races are equally intense but that it’s “an interparty struggle” among Democrats in DPS.

Groff differed with the Dougco board on one issue. Asked about Amendment 66, he said, “If I were here I’d vote for that.”

Groff produced the paper for the Common Sense Policy Roundtable, a self-described “free-enterprise think tank” that commissions research on economic issues. He presented his views to the group Tuesday morning.