Colorado

Peter Groff weighs in on Dougco reforms

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.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.