Douglas County School District board of education joins presidential debate
By Rhonda Moore | Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2012 11:00 am
The announcement by presidential candidate Mitt Romney that he has the support of the Douglas County School District board of education was an unprecedented move that reflects the district’s position at ground zero in the school choice debate, said political analyst Floyd Ciruli.
Romney announced on Feb. 1 that the Douglas County School District board of education was on board in his quest for the White House with a shared vision to “take control of our children’s curriculum out of the hands of the federal government.” Romney, who the day before the announcement won the 2012 Florida Republican primary over opponent Newt Gingrich, is a vocal supporter of school choice.
The Douglas County School District in 2011 launched its school choice scholarship program, a controversial school voucher program designed to allow parents to take their state-issued per-pupil funding and spend it at a private school of their choice, including religious institutions.
The program was halted in an August 2011 Denver District Court decision and is now in the appeal process. Ciruli expects it is a decision that could go all the way to the Supreme Court.
“What makes it so extraordinary is it’s a well-heeled, well-thought-of school district,” Ciruli said. “People are paying a lot of attention, the lawsuit is extremely important. That lawsuit could be a Supreme Court-level lawsuit.
“I definitely see Douglas County seeing themselves doing something of national significance and wanting national support, which, from their viewpoint, will come from the Republican side,” Ciruli said. “Romney would be a person they would look to to help them on their approach, which would include the private side. School boards are usually non-partisan. We know the partisanship of the Douglas County school board. It’s definitely unusual.”
In his press release to announce the support of the school board, Romney included a statement from the board’s president, John Carson, who acts as the board’s public spokesman. Carson spoke out against federal intrusion in public education, supporting Romney’s commitment to choice and competition.
“(Romney) is also a proven leader who has shown time and again that he can turn around troubled enterprises,” Carson says. “That is exactly what the bureaucratic U.S. Department of Education needs today. I look forward to having a President Romney in the White House and unleashing our schools and our students to achieve their full potential.”