Corporate-Driven Education Reform Experiments Failing in Denver and Around the Country

I decided to add to my recent articles about the Colorado State Board of Education primary in Denver after reading an article today in Chalkbeat Colorado, a national non-profit education news agency. In the article "8 struggling schools opt in to Colorado's new turnaround network."  Ashley Jochim, research analyst at the Center on Reinventing Publication Education and one of the policy experts advising the states the following: 

                                                                                                                                                   Stacey Jocim, CRPE

"But Jochim said the resources will only be fruitful if principals are allowed to adopt the best ideas, even if they run counter to district policies – something that could be a challenge when it comes to personnel, budget, and curriculum. 

If Colorado stumbles, it won't be alone, Jochim said.

 "We're not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right,"* she said.

*Bold added for emphasis.                                                                                       Link:


Since the beginning of the now-Senator Michael Bennet's term as DPS superintendent, Denver Public Schools administration has pursued an aggressive approach to public schools that includes firing and displacing teachers, closing schools, and privatizing public schools by putting control in the hand of private companies that use public and private funds to run those schools. Bennet hired Mr. Boasberg to be the COO of DPS by attracting him away from his position as the VP of Corporate Affiairs at a multi-billion dollar corporation (a background much like Bennet's). In addition Boasberg chooses to reside and Boulder and will not send his own children to the District he oversees.  


DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg                                Boasberg and Senator Michael Bennet


What is Turnaround?

For a background on Turnaround, Turnaround is a status that is granted through US Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan's landmark education policy, Race to the Top. Much of Race to the Top included money to backfill the budgets of states, districts, and schools who were suffering devastating cuts during the Great Recession. Another component was school turnarounds to be funded under the School Improvement Grants. In order to receive funding for Turnarounds, a school must be in the lowest 5% of rankings on high-stakes standardized tests like CSAPTCAP, and PARCC. The federal government promised $5 billion dollars over 5 years. It just happens to be that these schools are primarily. 


                                                                                                                                       US Secretary of Education,                                                                                                                                                          Arnie Duncan

There are 4 Turnaround models in the federal guidelines:

  1. Turnaround Model – Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50% of the school’s staff, adopt a new governance structure, and implement a research-based vertically aligned instructional program. 
  2. Restart Model – Transfer control of or close and reopen a school under a School Management Organization (SMO) or school operator that has been selected through a rigorous review process. 
  3. School Closure – Close the school and enroll students in other, higher-achieving schools. 
  4. Transformation Model – Develop teacher/principal effectiveness (including replacing the principal), implement comprehensive instructional reform, extend learning and teacher planning time, create a community-orientation, and provide operating flexibility and sustained support



Translated into normal  English:  

  1. Turnaround ModelFire or displace at least half of the staff and the principal.
  2. Restart Model – Create a charter or give the existing school a privately-run and publicly-funded charter school.
  3. School Closure – No need to explain. See Chicago Public Schools or DC Public Schools.  
  4. Transformation – Fire the principal and invest. Only model that doesn't fire and displace effective teachers. 

DPS most commonly chooses the Turnaround model. This is not the case nationwide. Once again, I want to reiterate the quote that "We're not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right."

What does this mean for DPS?

According to this Colorado Department of Education website, DPS has used federal Turnaround grants at least 14 times over 3 years, receiving millions in federal money. 


  1. Montbello High School (Close)
  2. North High School
  3. Noel Middle School
  4. Philips (Close)
  5. Rishel (Close)
  6. Lake
  7. Skyland (Close)
  8. Greenlee 
  9. Gilpin 
  10. Trevista 
  11. Charles M. Schenk 
  12. Smith
  13. West
  14. Bruce Randolph


The list above does not include schools that went through a similar process called "Redesign". These schools did not qualify for the School Improvement Grants, happened prior to SIG, or are outside of the CDE reporting. This following list may be missing additional schools, but the redesign and closed schools that I can recall outside of the SIG grants are:

  1. Remington Elementary (Closed)
  2. Smedley Elementary (Closed)
  3. Horace Mann Middle School
  4. Del Pueblo Elementary (Closed)
  5. Wyman Elementary (Closed)
  6. Gilpin
  7. Polaris (Closed)
  8. Manual High School (Twice:  resulting in many students, predominantly of color, never graduating high school)
  9. Kunsmiller Middle School
  10. Grant Middle School
  11. Oakland Elementary (Twice:  turned into SOAR Oakland charter school and then closed again)
  12. McGlone Elementary
  13. Green Valley Ranch Elementary
  14. Centennial K-8
  15. Fairmont K-8
  16. Ashley Elementary
  17. Smiley Middle School (Closed)
  18. Kepner Middle School (Coming in 2015-2016)


Denver Public Schools currently has two Turnaround networks of schools managed by their own Instruction Superindent, Deputy Superintendent, and support staff. The current networks are the West Denver Network (WDN) and the Denver Summit Schools Network (DSSN). They are in process of establishing a new turnaround network including Cheltenham Elementary, Columbine Elementary, Fairview Elementary, and Valverde Elementary. This network is flagged for Redesign or Turnaround if improvement is not made soon.  



DPS has already redesigned or turned around 17 schools on its own and 14 more with the support federal money to aid their programs. This makes 31 schools in Denver where students were displaced, teachers and other staff were fired. 


What is the result?


The Achievement Gap Is Growing.

Denver Public Schools consists of 77% minority students. 58% of those students are Latino, and 14% Black. As the District administration continues to fail to address the achievement gap, it continues to fail the majority of Denver students. Furthermore, these schools all predominantly serve or served students of color. Two of Denver's iconic schools that successfully served African American students, Montbello and Manual High Schools, have been tinkered with with little success. DPS eventually shut down Montbello and is trying to decide what to do with Manual. Similar Turnarounds and closures are happening at Latino schools like West High School and Kepner Middle School. Tom Boasberg has even admitted that while the achievement gap is shrinking statewide, it is getting worse in Denver, 

"While we're seeing significant gains across all demographic groups, we are not seeing our gaps close and this is very concerning," Boasberg said. "As we move forward, clearly we need to improve the effectiveness of our efforts to close the achievement gaps."

Citation:  "Latino students in Colroado Slowly closing gaps on achievement tests." Denver Post




Massive Layoffs and Firings of Effective Teachers.

The vast majority of these schools implemented a process that either shuttered the school or required the staff to reapply for their jobs despite positive performance evaluations. The district is then able to displace or layoff teachers without any cause when they had been performing effectively. 



Fewer Teachers of Color in Denver Schools

  • It is a well-known fact that Denver Public Schools is losing more teachers of color than they are attracting. ​According to Colorado Public Radio reported Jenny Brundin in an article in February 2014, only 4% of teachers in Denver are black while 14% of the student body is black. The gap worsens with Latinos with a 17% Latino teachers and 58% Latino students. Link – "Race Matters in the Classroom:  Why are all of my teachers white?



Major Funding for Politicians (Democrats for Education Reform) and Republicans Who Support this Model. 






Maybe this will help explain why the NEA's body of over 8,000 education employee delegates vote in support of a request to ask US Secretary of State Arnie Duncan to resign. School boards are getting more and more funding from national corporate and special interests that are working to privatize public education and bust teacher and other public employee unions (one of the strongest checks on corporations and Republicans). 

We are now seeing this in Douglas County, Jefferson County, Big Thompson School District, and District 12 as well. It is time to get educated and get organized to preserve one of the major pillars of American prosperity. 

Perlmutter, Bennet Push for IRS to Waive Fee that Marijuana Businesses Cannot Avoid

Ed Perlmutter

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

Whatever your opinion on the legalization of marijuana — both for medicinal and recreational uses — it's become increasingly clear that banking and tax laws need to be adjusted for the safety and security of both businesses and customers.

As David Migoya reports in the Denver Post, Rep. Ed Perlmutter continues his push to find some sort of fair middle ground for pot shops that are being forced to conduct most of their business operations entirely in cash:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Ed Perlmutter on Friday asked the Internal Revenue Service to stop assessing a 10 percent penalty on legal marijuana businesses that are forced to pay federal withholding taxes in cash for lack of banking services.

In a joint letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Bennet and Perlmutter, both Democrats, noted how pot shops in Colorado often have little choice but to pay employee withholding taxes in cash since banks won't take their business.

IRS rules require the taxes to be paid via the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, and businesses that don't comply face a 10 percent penalty on the tax.

News of the practice came to light when The Denver Post last week reported about a Denver dispensary's legal efforts to challenge the IRS…

…Another problem is that businesses willing to pay the IRS assessment — often amounting to tens of thousands of dollars — can't get an installment plan as other businesses do because they remain out of compliance and subject to additional penalties, according to the attorney who is challenging the fines in U.S. Tax Court. As a result, a legal marijuana shop's operating license is in jeopardy — despite paying their taxes on time — because state law requires them to be in compliance with all federal and state tax laws.

This problem seems particularly ludicrous — again, no matter your opinion on marijuana — because pot shops have absolutely no option for avoiding the 10% penalty they are assessed for not using banking services. The federal government still doesn't allow banks to accept deposits from marijuana businesses, so how, exactly, are they supposed to comply with IRS rules requiring the use of banking services? We're not going to allow you to deposit money in a bank…but we are going to fine you for not having a bank account.

We wouldn't expect Congress to take action on this issue, since Republican House leadership has largely pledged not to take action on, well, anything beyond getting mad at President Obama for trying to govern while they race office chairs up and down the hall. But this is a pretty good issue for potential bipartisan support if there ever was such a thing. Republicans are normally jumping at the chance to prevent the federal government from infringing on state's rights; when you include the opportunity to complain about the IRS at the same time, this should be a slam dunk for the GOP. And again, this is a serious safety issue when you force an industry to carry around massive amounts of cash; why bother robbing a bank when you'll get more cash out of a pot shop that had a good weekend?

If and when federal law is finally changed to accommodate changes created by state elections, Rep. Perlmutter should get the credit he deserves for being at the forefront of a set of issues that really do affect Coloradans of all stripes.


700 Million Trillion Gajillion Jobs

100s of thousands

Many hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost…um, no.

Today's U.S. Senate vote on increasing the federal minimum wage brought out the best (or worst) arguments from opponents of the proposed legislation.

Many of those arguments, like the one you see at right, focused on the scare tactic of projecting massive job losses from a minimum wage increase. In this particular case, the Tweet at right says that "raising the minimum wage will cost Coloradans 100's of thousands of jobs."

Really? Hundreds of thousands?

Similar arguments have been made in Colorado regarding jobs and fracking.You can't restrict fracking!!! That will cost Colorado 500,000 jobs!!!

With all of these big numbers floating around, it made us wonder: Exactly how many jobs are there in Colorado? Is this kind of growth even remotely possible?

So, with those questions in mind, we took a little tour through the website of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, and more specifically, the section on labor statistics. What we found is pretty much along the lines of what we thought we'd find: It is ridiculous to claim that anything specific could increase or decrease the number of Colorado jobs by 100,000 or more. We even made a graphic about it. Want to see it? Here it goes:

Colorado job statistics

This here is what they call a ‘graphic’ or ‘chart.’

As you can see from the aforementioned graphical chart thing that we produced, Colorado added a total of about 49,800 jobs in the last 6 years combined. That's every industry we're talking about — including the oil and gas industry.

With total nonfarm jobs in Colorado somewhere around 2.4 million, it would take an effort of gargantuan proportion to add or subtract many hundreds of thousands of jobs. You could argue with a straight face that 300,000 jobs will be added/subtracted over the course of several decades, but that's not really the implication in these talking points, now is it?

There are many arguments to be made for and against any subject, but once you start throwing big numbers around as casually as you might close important roads just to be a dick*, then you're really drifting into the land of imaginary facts. You're making shit up, in other words. 



Limited Immigration Reform May Be A Go – Nativists Have Already Conceded That It Would Not Be Amnesty

According to Alex Nowrahsteh of CATO, bipartisan immigration reform of the infamous 3/10 year bar may still be passable this year.  As described in the linked article, the three and ten year bar:

"requires that any immigrant who stays in the United States illegally for more than six months but less than one year may not leave and reenter for three years. Any immigrant who illegally stays for more than a year may not leave and reenter for 10 years. Also known as the 3/10-year bar, any immigrant who violates it triggers a twenty-year ban from reentering the United States – for any reason. Some unauthorized immigrants, mainly the spouses and parents of U.S. citizens, can currently apply for a green card. However, they can only do it after leaving the country. Since most unauthorized immigrants have been here for more than a decade and leaving would make the 3/10-year bar apply to them, this legislative catch-22 prevents current law from legalizing many of them."

So one would expect the anti-immigrants to immediately start crowing about this.   However, they have a small problem: one of the chief restrictionists, Mark Krikorian of Center for Immigration Studies, has already conceded that drastically reforming this bar would not be amnesty.  I have attached linked audio from the Spring of 2010 when I had the chance to get Krikorian on the record on Ross Kaminsky's radio show.  In it you can clearly hear Krikorian declare that allowing the spouse of a US citizen to stay in the country after a very minor penalty for overstaying would not be amnesty and also that he is not a "big fan" of the bar in the first place.  In fact, Krikorian stated he would support replacing the 3/10 year bar with a 6 months/1 year bar.

So how will the anti-immigrants handle the latest proposal?  My prediction: they will pretend Krikorian never conceded that it would not be amnesty.  Any bets on whether I am right?

This was originally posted by me at the Colorado Independent

(STILL BREAKING): How Does Cory Gardner for Senate Make Any Sense At All?

They too would like to be your Senator.

And the Republican clown car rolls on…

Okay, so let's get this straight…The Republican Party is going to defeat Sen. Mark Udall with Rep. Cory Gardner? The GOP thinks their best chance in 2014 is running an anti-incumbent message through an incumbent member of Congress — which is now the most disliked group of individuals in the history of public polling?


The current crop of Republican candidates for Senate is, in a word, terrible. All of the candidates have massive flaws, from publicly backing Personhood to supporting the government shutdown. All of the candidates are unappealing to women and Hispanic voters. All of the candidates are from outside the Denver Metro Area — which is where the most voters are concentrated…


Consider this list and where Gardner ends up: You can put a checkmark next to his name and every one of these problematic issues for Republicans in 2014:

X    Personhood supporter
X    Backed government shutdown
X    Opposes immigration reform efforts
X    Opposes in-state tuition for immigrants
X    Has favored "redefining" definition of rape
X    Wants to shut down Departments of Energy and Transportation
X    Has low statewide name ID
X    Is weak with women and Hispanic voters
 X  Opposes civil unions
 X  Talked favorably about Eastern Colorado Secession

The point here isn't to just list the problems with a Cory Gardner campaign for U.S. Senate. The point is to show that there is no major issue where Cory Gardner is any different or better for Republicans in 2014 than any of the existing GOP Senate candidates. Different body, same head (or is it the other way around?)

In fact, you could make an argument that Gardner is potentially worse than the current crop of candidates because: a) his candidacy was born in a smoke-filled backroom in Washington D.C., which nobody ever likes, b) he makes it harder to run an anti-incumbent message against Udall, and c) he's been in the news recently for high-profile Congressional junkets.

We understand that Gardner will probably be a much better fundraiser than any of the current candidates (though it would be hard to do worse when 2014 Republicans have been HISTORICALLY bad), but how is he anything more than a younger version of Ken Buck? (and we mean the 2014 version of Buck, not even the 2010 model).


Senate Ends Filibuster of Most Presidential Nominees

UPDATE: A statement from Sen. Mark Udall a short while ago:

"I have worked for years to bridge the partisan divide in Washington to find common ground with those I may disagree with, but Senate Republicans' ongoing and historic obstruction of highly qualified nominees is unacceptable. This obstruction is allowing a minority in the Legislative Branch to prevent the Executive Branch from doing its job for the American people. Coloradans expect better," Udall said. "Due to a cascade of obstructionism in the Senate, essential Executive Branch positions such as the Secretary of the Defense as well as dozens of judgeships — essential for Main Street businesses and job creators to settle disputes and have their day in court — have seen efforts to block up-or-down votes. These persistent vacancies undermine our economy, public safety and the fundamental promise of a functioning federal government. I did not relish today's vote, but it is necessary to protect the promise of the U.S. Constitution and to get government working again."




The Senate approved a historic rules change on Thursday by eliminating the use of the filibuster on all presidential nominees except those to the U.S. Supreme Court...

The unprecedented rules change means that President Barack Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote.

Both parties threatened to change the rules in recent years — but Reid said he felt compelled to finally pull the trigger after what he described as unprecedented use of the filibuster on Obama’s judicial picks, namely three blocked judges to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete,” Reid said in a lengthy floor speech on Thursday morning.

Both Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet voted in favor of the so-called "nuclear option," long threatened by both sides in different circumstances and finally enacted today. Both Colorado Senators have pushed for reform of the filibuster in some form for as long as they've been in the U.S. Senate. The change made today, while historic, won't affect the ability of Senators to filibuster legislation. The delay faced by nominee for posts in the Obama administration has been far longer than that faced by his predecessor. From the time of committee approval to confirmation, Obama's circuit court nominees–just as one example–have had to wait over 138 days on average–by comparison, George W. Bush's nominees waited 35 days.

With public approval of Congress at unprecedented lows, and partisan gridlock chiefly blamed, something had to give. It's true that the change made today could be used against Democrats at some point should they find themselves in the minority, but the risk to the credibility of the entire institution under the dysfunctional status quo appears to have forced this long-debated action.

Michael Bennet no Democrat

I am puzzled by ColoradoPols' silence concerning Michael Bennet. This man is no Democrat, and no friend of working people.  I am interested in hearing from others who think he should be recalled, opposed in a primary, defeated at the next opportunity.  He is nothing but a servant of the 0.0001%.  

Politicos’ Flood Damage Flyover Becomes Rescue Mission


A helicopter surveillance mission Saturday carrying Hickenlooper and members of Colorado's congressional delegation was diverted twice to pick up people waving to be rescued.

After the officials' delayed arrival at a Boulder airport, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall promised a bipartisan push in Congress for federal aid for flood recovery. "That dog and the cat and those seven people on those two helicopters didn't ask us whether we were Democrats or Republicans," Udall said. [Pols emphasis]


Left to right: Rep. Cory Gardner (R), Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Sen. Mark Udall (D). Photo via Sen. Udall

Gov. John Hickenlooper and rescued Estes Park resident.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and rescued Estes Park resident.

As the Boulder Daily Camera's Mitchell Byars reports:

Gov. John Hickenlooper, Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and members of the state's congressional delegation on Saturday afternoon took a helicopter tour across flood-ravaged Boulder County and parts of Jefferson and Larimer Counties.

As a testament to the destruction and, in some places, still very dangerous situation in the state, the two National Guard helicopters the dignitaries were aboard stopped twice to rescue stranded people during the tour, officials said. They eventually picked up six people a dog and a cat, dropping them off at an airport in Larimer County before returning to Boulder Municipal Airport.

Hickenlooper estimated the group saw 55 sections of roads and highways that were either partially or totally destroyed by flood waters. In some places there was little evidence a road had been there at all, with everything down to the road base washed away. Despite the monumental effort that will be required for Colorado and Boulder County to recover from the calamity, Hickenlooper voiced optimism that the state would bounce back.

"I think the thing that we're all agreed to is that we're gonna come back and we are going to rebuild better than it was before," he said. "And as a community we're gonna come out stronger after the storm that we were before."

Action Tweeted in close to real time by Rep. Cory Gardner:


More photos from today's bipartisan rescue mission after the jump. 


Wadhams takes the knife to GOP peace-maker Tancredo

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Former Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams.

Former Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams.

Just as Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo started pleading with Colorado Republicans to stop beating up each other, GOP strategist Dick Wadhams took to the radio waves to slam down Tancredo as unelectable.

On KNUS' Backbone Radio show Sunday, Wadhams amplified on an a Sept. 1 Denver Post op-ed, where he made veiled references to GOP candidates who've lost previously and who, if nominated, would extend the Republican "losing streak" in Colorado.

Guest host Randy Corporon deserves credit for getting to the heart of the matter, when he asked Wadhams:

Corporon: "The two candidates who popped to mind for me who've lost state-wide office in recent history are Tom Tancredo and Senate candidate Ken Buck. Did you have them in mind?"

Wadhams: "Indeed I did. I cannot see how a candidate who has clearly had a history of rhetoric that has alienated Hispanic voters can get elected state-wide in Colorado. I don't see it."

[BigMedia intervention: One wonders if Corporon thought about asking Wadhams for the name of any GOP candidate, including Rep. Mike Coffman, who does not have a "history of rhetoric that has alienated Hispanic voters," but let's continue with the interview.]

Wadhams: In terms of Ken Buck, who I think would have been a marvelous U.S. Senator, and Ken, actually, was going into October with a lead. But he said some things that gave Michael Bennet the ability to come from behind and win that… And those issues don't go away.

[BigMedia intervention]: But Buck blamed his loss on Democrats, not on himself.

Wadhams later in the interview: "I do not think that even if it had been a head-to-head with Hickenlooper and Tancredo, that Tancredo would have won in 2010. Hickenlooper never had to run a negative ad… He's never been tested state-wide in a campaign like this. I don't think he would hold up under scrutiny."

Dick Wadhams on KNUS Backbone Radio 09-01-13


Obama Asks Congress For Permission To Bomb Syria

UPDATE: CBS4 Denver has a new report on fresh skepticism from Rep. Mike Coffman today, including an interesting new possible GOP line of attack: should Obama not have gone to Congress then?

Coffman says the delay in striking Assad has wasted precious time.

“The Assad government has had all the time in the world to move their assets around so they don’t present themselves as easy targets,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Coffman is not gung-ho for a strike. Not until it’s proven to him it would not lead to a protracted military engagement. He also wonders if Assad is chased from power, what then?

This wouldn't be the first time President Obama has been damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, of course.


US Navy photo

US Navy photo

As the Washington Post reports:

Syria on Sunday gloated over a "historic American retreat," deriding President Barack Obama for his decision to delay what had appeared to be imminent military strikes and dealing a further blow to U.S. credibility among the Syrian opposition and its allies.

The announcement Saturday by Obama that he would seek congressional approval for any U.S. military intervention in Syria, effectively pushing back any potential strike for at least 10 days, was seized upon by Syrian officials and state media, presenting it as a victory for the regime…

Back on the home front, there's bipartisan support in the Colorado congressional delegation for President Barack Obama's choice to seek congressional approval ahead of any military action by the United States against Syria, though from our read of the statements issued by lawmakers, considerably less evident appetite for actually going to war. Colorado Springs Gazette:

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Reps. Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton, applauded the president's plan to put the matter before Congress.

"I approve of the president consulting with Congress and seeking congressional support on this important issue. I will be gathering many facts before making any decision," Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, wrote in an email to The Gazette.

Bennet, a Democrat, also stressed in a statement to The Gazette the need for Congress to weigh its options carefully.

"Syria's use of chemical weapons is deplorable. Congress will review the evidence presented by the administration and hold a serious debate about options," he wrote. "We must consider the enormous challenges in the region and the complexity of the situation that includes a military already stretched thin, a nation in civil war, and a region in transition."

9NEWS carried reaction from Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis: 


Big Line Updates: Buck Changes Senate, AG Lines

We've updated The Big Line to reflect Ken Buck's entry into the U.S. Senate race.

Buck is the early favorite to capture the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, but we still have Sen. Mark Udall as a heavy favorite to win re-election. The biggest impact of Buck's candidacy is on the Republican side, where Owen Hill and Amy Stephens have some decisions to make. This is an entirely different race for Hill, who a week ago had little to lose politically so long as he didn't make a fool of himself in a race no-one would expect him to win (we don't consider Randy Baumgardner a serious obstacle for, well, anyone). Does Hill keep running and risk a drubbing in a Primary? Probably not.

As for Stephens, if she was serious about running for Senate she probably waited too long. We first reported back in June that Stephens was being recruited by some to run in 2014, but she really need to jump into the race before Buck in order to coalesce the support she would need to win a Primary. It's quite possible that Stephens could have done enough to keep Buck from running if she had moved quicker. If she still intends to run, the clock is ticking fast — she can't let Buck get even a few weeks' head start in fundraising.

Buck's decision should also finally end Bob Beauprez's sad flirtation with running for Senate. Beauprez really, really, really wanted to run for Senate, and Republicans really, really, really had no interest in supporting him.

Things are also clarified a bit on the GOP side for Attorney General, where Cynthia Coffman and Mark Waller are now free to battle it out for the Republican nomination.


Roundup: Buck Is Back For 2014

UPDATE #2: As the Colorado Independent’s John Tomasic reports, Ken Buck’s entry into the 2014 U.S. Senate is making big waves–for other Colorado Republicans.

The national Democratic House Majority PAC is already positioning Buck’s candidacy as a liability to Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, who is running in what’s now the state’s toss-up Sixth Congressional District.

“Mike Coffman and Ken Buck are two ideological peas in an extremist, Tea Party pod,” Andy Stone, communications director, was quoted in an email blast Thursday. “After all, both Coffman and Buck have shown themselves to be dangerously out of touch with Coloradans in supporting a personhood amendment to ban abortion even in the case of rape and incest and opposing the promise of treatment for previously untreatable diseases potentially offered by embryonic stem cell research.”


UPDATE: People for the American Way answers news of Ken Buck's entry into the 2014 Senate race with a clip video they originally released in October of 2010. This takes us back.


2010 GOP Senate nominee Ken Buck.

2010 GOP Senate nominee Ken Buck.

Progressive Cowgirl noted it first here last night, and here's a quick coverage roundup (so far) of 2010 GOP U.S. Senate nominee Ken Buck's entry into the 2014 race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall.


A Few Words About Hubris And Ken Buck

2010 GOP Senate nominee Ken Buck.

2010 GOP Senate nominee Ken Buck.

Amid the GOP's ongoing struggle to find an opponent–any opponent–to challenge incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in 2014, the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels puts 2010 Senate loser Ken Buck's name back in the mix:

Buck for months has been mentioned as a likely candidate for state attorney general, but in recent days several high-profile Republicans have announced their candidacy for the office and the talk has switched to a Senate bid.

"We have been talking about it, and I'll leave it there," his wife, state Rep. Perry Buck, R-Windsor, confirmed Tuesday.

Much of the speculation about Buck's political future has been on hold since his battle with cancer was disclosed in March. Bartels reports today that Buck's cancer remains in remission, and he is undergoing his last round of chemotherapy this week.

It's true that Buck lost in 2010 by a relatively small margin to appointed incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet. But the underlying reasons for that narrow and trend-countering loss for the GOP in an otherwise GOP "wave year" revealed a fatal flaw in the newfound political vigor offered by the "Tea Party." Buck lost the election, as our readers know well, largely due to overwhelming opposition from women voters. Buck's hard-line views against abortion and gay rights, and October revelations of a rape case he had refused to prosecute claiming the victim had "buyer's remorse," broke the back of a Senate campaign that wasn't supposed to lose. Since 2010, this race has become a model for Democrats to alienate women and independents from wedge-issue hardliners.

We get that the GOP bench is very thin for 2014, but re-running Ken Buck is not the answer.

In fact, the suggestion seems almost…masochistic.

Senators Bennet and Udall: Make Farm Bill History

"Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?"

~Henry Ford


The United States Senate will have the opportunity to make history this week while debating the 2013 Farm Bill: a full debate on the re-legalization of industrial hemp via an expected floor amendment.  The crop of our forefathers.  A crop deemed so critical to our nation's future that farmers in Colonial America were under a mandate to grow the crop.  The crop that made possible Ben Franklin's Colonial Free Press.  The crop that clothed our early military; protected our pioneering ancestors as they crossed our vast prairies –  and counted 16 million acres of production in the 1862 Census. The crop USDA deemed so critical to national defense the federal prohibition was lifted during WWII.

It was a tragic confluence of events that lead to the demise of hemp.  Prohibition was in its waning days, and the federal bureaucracy built around alcohol seizure no longer had a mission – a focus on narcotics would be the lifeline for the bureaucracy.  Our nation was on the cusp of launching an economy mobilized by Rockefeller's new-found 'black gold'; the synthetic clothing market and the advent of the agricultural chemical industry was in its infancy at DuPont.   And media titan Randolph Hearst,  the owner of significant forestry assets, had launched an all-out media war on Hispanic immigrants and marijuana.

Thus was borne the "Marihuana Tax  Act of 1937";  legislation devised by Henry Anslinger and his uncle, Andrew Mellon of Mellon Banks to tax the production of industrial hemp.  And with the new tax, the production of hemp became an uneconomical alternative to the newly developed energy, synthetic clothing and chemical industry derived from fossil resources controlled by titans DuPont and Rockefeller.  Mellon was the banker of both DuPont and Rockefeller.  It's not terribly hard to do the math.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

And with the enacting of the Marihuana Act came the demise of Henry Ford's "Iron Mountain" project where he had developed a sedan made of industrial hemp composites that was powered by ethanol fermented from hemp.  He had also developed an entire line of hemp-based  lubricants and industrial products.  

Forward to 1970 and the birth of our nations failed 'War on Drugs'.  Marijuana is defined as a Schedule 1 narcotic, on par with cocaine and heroine by the DEA, despite the fact the Congressional intent stated emphatically: 


    "nothing in this Act is meant to prohibit the production of hemp for industrial purposes"


In 2012 Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment, Amendment 64, which in addition to legalizing adult use of marijuana also legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp by Colorado farmers.  Touting wide bi-partisan support, the amendment garnered more votes than our President.  The Colorado legislature acted swiftly and by Sine Die 2013 had put in place a regulatory framework for hemp.  The legislation passed third reading in both chambers with a unanimous vote.

Thus, an industry was borne.  Now the conflict between Federal and State law must be resolved.  And from this growing conflict between state and federal law (18 states took various legislative action on industrial hemp this year) was borne the "2013 Industrial Hemp Farming Act", known in Congress as S. 359 and H.R. 525.  Both Chambers tout broad, bi-partisan support.  But this legislative journey remains unclear.  The Judiciary Committees were given jurisdiction in their respective chambers.  In both cases, no hearings have been scheduled.  It's even more unclear whether the bills will be heard at all this year, given they are in the queue behind Immigration Reform.

Is there a better, more efficient way to move this legislation on an issue that broad support from across the political spectrum?  Yes – a floor amendment during the full Farm Bill debate in the Senate this week.  And we need the pro-active leadership of our two Senators.

Industrial Hemp has the potential to add a new, vibrant  addition to our agricultural 'horn of plenty' in Colorado.  The crop requires few chemical inputs; its water requirements are minimal when compared to many traditional crops across the eastern plains and western slope.  Its ability to remediate soils has at the potential to heal salt-laden agricultural soils and mitigate heavy metal contamination from old mines and superfund sites.  The United States is the largest consumer market of hemp products in the world – a $400 million annual market demand met exclusively from imports.  American farmers remain the only agriculturalists in the industrialized world to be prohibited from its cultivation.  

And while giving Colorado farmers a crop alternative to help them meet their ever-growing water resource challenges, the crop also gives us significant environmental benefits:  its ability to extract enormous amounts of atmospheric carbon from the atmosphere.  Hemp extracts four times the CO2 annually per acre than does a standing forest.  Annual dry biomass yields per acre range from 2-3x the amount of biomass produced by either a corn or switchgrass crop;  ethanol-from-hemp reduces the greenhouse-gas-emissions by 86% when compared to transportation fuels from petroleum.

It is expected that Senator Mitch McConnell will introduce a floor amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill on Tuesday that would remove hemp as a Schedule I narcotic, legalizing its cultivation under federal law, and moving jurisdiction of the crop from DEA to USDA.

Despite recent demands on House members from the Heritage Foundation to not move on any legislation, (which also includes the Farm Bill) the action will be in the Senate on Tuesday.  A unique opportunity for our Senators to lead the fight for the passage of this amendment – and stand with the 55% of their fellow Coloradans who so wisely legalized the crop six months ago.  

Senators Bennet and Udall, please take a proactive role on this potentially historic event.  Farmers, conservationists, the environment, our natural resources and the state economy will be the benefactors of your leadership.  



Delving in to the immigration reform package

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In the midst of the craziness of the news of the last week, it’s little wonder that the largest reform to our nation’s immigration policies ended up taking a back burner in news coverage.  Lost in the shuffle were a few items worth of our consideration here in Colorado.

The bi-partisan bill from the Senate’s Gang of Eight includes both a fund for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and an increase of the H-1B visa cap. An increase in the cap was needed to help companies fill the thousands of vacancies in high-skilled jobs. The bill proposes increasing the cap from 65,000 per year to 110,000, and allowing the number of H-1B visas available to continue to expand up to a maximum of 180,000 to better track with demand. Given that all the H-1B visas were snatched up within the first few days of them becoming available this year, it is clear that this expansion is necessary.

It is also encouraging to see a national fund to provide a significant stream of money to all states, which would expand opportunities for more students to pursue STEM fields. The STEM education fund would be paid for with an increase in fees on green cards and wouldn’t present a new cost to the American taxpayer.  Our country faces an immediate and long-term crisis with the shortage of qualified workers in STEM fields as the number of available science, technology, engineering, and mathematics jobs far outpaces our ability to fill them.

While the increase in H-1B visas helps patch this significant current problem, providing a fund to encourage and retain students in STEM fields is needed to support the jobs of the future. As evidence: Over the last few years, Colorado employers requested on average 2,735 H-1B visas per year for foreign, temporary workers, 74% of which were requested to fill STEM jobs.

If anything, the designated STEM fund in the reform package should be even stronger. The U.S. ranked 41st out of 42 nations in innovation based capacity, according to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and 35 states are spending less on education than they were five years ago.

If we’re going to improve, there is also important work to be done in erasing disparities in STEM fields. African Americans and Latinos are 28 percent of the U.S. population, but only seven percent of the STEM workforce. Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women will fill just 29 percent of the 1.4 million computing jobs expected to open through 2018.

Strengthening the nation’s STEM education pipeline as a part of immigration reform will also strengthen America’s economy and its ability to be an innovation leader well into the future.