Tancredo’s Tea-Party Position on Education Aligns with Jeffco School Board

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Tom Tancredo.

Tom Tancredo.

ColoradoPols has called on gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo to address rumors that "GOP power-brokers" are pushing for him to be Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools.

Pols didn't get into whether Tancredo, who's currently leading the gubernatorial GOP primary field, would be a logical selection for the Tea-Party-controlled Jeffco School Board. No need to fall off your chair because yes, unfortunately, Tancredo's views on education are thoroughly right-wing.

He's not only a consistent supporter of diverting public-school funding to private schools through vouchers, but he also sees the public school system as a way for public officials to control the small minds of America's children.

Tancredo: "Why we can’t at least give kids in those [poverty] circumstances, a key to that door – called a voucher. Tell me, why it is so important to keep them locked into a government school system. Well, we know why they want to. They want to determine how those kids view the world, as we just got done explaining."

Where's the evidence that public-school education is about anything but freedom from indoctrination? Teachers wouldn't tolerate it. They don't want to indoctrinate their students. They want to teach them to understand how the world works and ask questions about it. American public education is about mind control?

Tancredo expressed these views on the Peter Boyles show April 1, with Chuck Bonniwell subbing for Boyles.

Jeffco teachers, supported by community members, are at an impasse with the Jeffco board, whose current leaders would certainly applaud Tancredo's views, as expressed here:

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GOP Caucus Crackup? Anti-Priola “Coup Attempt” Fails

UPDATE: Here's a clip of Rep. Kevin Priola from yesterday's debate over Rep. Jim Wilson's amendment to House Bill 14-1292. The tension then brewing over Priola's opposition to this mostly GOP-supported amendment is clear in his voice:

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GOP Reps. Kevin Priola and Chris Holbert.

GOP Reps. Kevin Priola and Chris Holbert.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports this afternoon:

House Republicans met for 30 minutes Thursday morning after Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, called a meeting with the goal of replacing Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, as the caucus whip.

Priola had alienated many of his fellow GOP colleagues a day earlier when he declined to support an amendment to the Student Success Act sponsored by Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, that most Republicans supported.

Priola hadn’t paid Wilson, one of the more popular members in the caucus, the courtesy of informing him ahead of time that he wouldn’t be supporting his amendment related to a transparency website to show how school districts spend public money.

The Denver Post's Anthony Cotton has a little more reaction from Republicans:

According to the Republicans, part of Priola’s job as Whip is to determine where the membership stands on the issues and help align support within the party–on Wednesday, party members say, Priola not only failed to do that, he argued on the floor in favor of Hamner’s amendment over Wilson’s.

When Hamner’s amendment was passed in a close vote, it led to Thursday’s move by Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, to have Priola removed.

“We were shocked and disappointed that happened,” Holbert said. “He should have let us know his position and we could have made adjustments.”

In the end, despite the push from Rep. Chris Holbert to remove Rep. Kevin Priola from his Minority Whip position on the spot today, minority caucus chair Rep. Kathleen Conti scuttled the move by ruling the motion out of order–as Priola hadn't resigned, the position technically wasn't "vacant." This would clearly indicate that Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso  was not on board. Originally, as Stokols reports, an angry GOP caucus was prepared to oust Priola, as indicated by an initial vote against adjourning the meeting of the caucus. After Conti ruled the whole business out of order, a second vote to adjourn passed.

So what really happened today? For the best clue available, we turn to Rep. Frank McNulty:

The attempted coup, whatever vote precipitated Thursday’s meeting, has been a long time coming, according to several House Republicans who describe a widening gap between the caucus’s moderate and conservative wings.

“This isn’t about the amendment yesterday,” said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch. “This is about personalities.”

By all accounts, this has been a very frustrating legislative session for the conservative wing of the GOP House caucus. After the success of last year's recall elections against two sitting Senators and the resignation of a third, conservatives expected to vigorously oppose Democrats at every step, setting the stage for a clear election season distinction. Instead, as we've recounted in this space, the base GOP outrage they hoped to sustain into this year has fizzled, and the GOP caucus took heavy criticism for dead-end ideological flights of fancy like the abortion ban bill. This incident over a relatively obscure Democratic amendment supported by Priola–which apparently didn't even pass on clean party lines, with several Democrats voting against along with most of the GOP–appears to ripped the scab off of a much larger intra-caucus disagreement.

Judging from the unsatisfying end of today's blowup, we've probably not heard the last of it either.

Wingnut Jeffco School Board Controversy Escalates

Last night, a marathon public session of the Jefferson County Board of Education illustrated the controversy being stoked by three new conservative board members, Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams, who are forging ahead with a stridently ideological agenda–and perhaps doing major harm to the district's reputation in the process. 9NEWS reported on events last night:

Charter schools have to take money out of the classroom budgets to pay for building expenses. Charter schools have to pay the Jefferson County School District fees for various services taking away from the estimated $7,000 per pupil district schools typically receive to use for classroom expenses…

The school board is considering adding an additional $100 per pupil to charter schools to help make up the difference in funding between charter and district schools.

[Parent Nicole] Dominic says this is an exciting new direction proposed by newly elected school board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams.

As this story explains, charter schools are obligated to pay for a variety of services provided by the district. That makes sense given that those services cost the district money, and doesn't mean that a net difference between neighborhood schools and public schools is "unfair." For one thing, charter schools commonly receive lucrative grants to offset their expenses that neighborhood schools can only dream of. But there's a much more basic reason not to divert this estimated $3.5 million from neighborhood schools to charter schools: it breaks the promises the district made in 2012 to persuade voters to raise property taxes.

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Stay Classy, CU “Visiting Conservative Scholar”

Dr. Steven Hayward.

Dr. Steven Hayward.

As the Boulder Daily Camera's Sarah Kuta reports, the University of Colorado's "visiting conservative scholar," Dr. Steven Hayward, who we've discussed a few times in this space, is indeed giving CU students badly-needed exposure to political opinions not generally found on traditionally liberal college campuses. That was the purpose, after all, in GOP kingpin turned CU President Bruce Benson and Republican CU Regents creating the "visiting conservative scholar" program to begin with. To expose college kids to conservative views.

If anything, it appears that Dr. Hayward is doing his job a little too well:

Student leaders at the University of Colorado are speaking out against Steven Hayward, the university's first-ever visiting scholar in conservative thought, for statements he made in a recent interview and in a blog post…

The student leaders pointed to a post Hayward wrote on the blog PowerLine in October titled "Off on a gender-bender," in which he described his discomfort and confusion after attending an orientation for new faculty members about gender identity.

Hayward poked fun at members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the same blog by writing: "LGBTQRSTUW (or whatever letters have been added lately)." [Pols emphasis]

He also wrote that he doubted any students had ever told a professor about their preferred gender pronouns or asked to be called by a different name.

If turning the acronym "LGBT" into a gratuitous alphabet soup, a slur which seems more at home on the Rush Limbaugh radio show than the work of a professor at our state's flagship university, isn't enough for you, it gets even better. Check out how Dr. Hayward recommends CU philosophy professors deal with that department's recent sexual harassment scandal:

Hayward suggested that victims should deal with their harasser directly.

"Well, I don't know, my mother and my mother-in-law both said, 'You know when those kinds of things happened to us, usually a lot worse 40, 50 years ago when they were in the working world, they slapped people,'"  [Pols emphasis] Hayward said in the interview. "Maybe we ought to get back to that."

Because, you know, slapping people in the workplace goes over so well! Why follow the laws that allow victims to hold their harassers accountable when you can just slap them and be done with it? Despite the superficial allure, something tells us that an outbreak of harasser slapping in workplaces around the country would not be greeted well by Dr. Hayward's financial backers.

Again, Dr. Hayward was brought to the CU campus to help supplement a perceived lack of "conservative thought."

Mission accomplished, though he may result in CU creating more liberals.

Jeffco School Board: 2090 Wright Street, Facts and Concerns

(More odd and concerning decisions from the new Jefferson County School Board. This decision is part of a troubling financial trend, including a $400,000 loan to Collegiate Academy [yellow-flagged on district financials] and a $250,000 loan to Mt.Phoenix Charter [red-flagged on district financials]. Click here for more background. – Promoted by Colorado Pols)
 

At the end of the executive session at the Jeffco Schools Board of Education meeting on Thursday, March 6th, no motion was made, so the district moved forward with filing the notice of appeal for the 2090 Wright Street property. 

The Board majority then decided at the March 20th meeting, at a restaurant and with very little public discussion, they wanted to withdraw the notice of appeal, against the advice of the Capitol Asset Advisory Committee.
 
 
By unanimous decision, with one member recusing, the members of the Jefferson County Schools Capital Asset Advisory Committee (CAAC) wish to demonstrate our support for the Jeffco Schools’ appeal of the Jefferson County District Court decision relating to the property parcel known as 2090 South Wright Street.

Collectively, the CAAC has been following this case since its inception. We have reviewed the Court’s decision and believe the implications to the district are significant with far-reaching implications as it relates to Jeffco Schools’ ability to conduct long range planning, manage school district properties and construct future schools.

These potential implications could be harmful and expensive to the district if this order is allowed to stand, leading us to recommend the appeal as a prudent business decision to protect and restore our property interests.

CAPITAL ASSET ADVISORY COMMITTEE

[More after the jump] (more…)

School Funding

Pols reporting of the ongoing school funding issue in the legislature seems nonexistent. Check out Chalkboard for the news on a united front of Colorado educators asking for no more unfunded mandates and some backfilling of the cuts of the last few years.

Democratic legislators appear to be under increasing pressure to restore funding, WITHOUT requiring implementation of their pet projects. Yesterday's letter to Gov. Hickenlooper signed by almost all superintendents in the state is unprecedented, yet very clear in what educators feel they need.

Conservatives still want you to boycott Girl Scout Cookies – I won’t!

Conservatives are still on this weird kick of persecuting Girl Scouts by urging people to boycott one of the most innocent and industrious fund raising tools around:

Launched in 1912, the Girl Scouts of the USA started as a single pack of girls in Savannah, Georgia, meeting in the hopes of getting out of their “isolated home environments and into community service and the open air.”

Beginning in 1917, when the first cookies were sold by an Oklahoma troop in a local high school as a service project, troops now sell approximately 200 million boxes per year, resulting in around $700 million in sales.

(Wow, that's quite a number and I wonder why R's attack the Free Enterprise actions of Girl Scouts? -z)

It’s through these cookie sales that anti-abortion groups are making their voices heard. Dubbing their effort “cookie-cott,” abortion opponents have been urging allies to refuse to purchase cookies from any girl scout this year to show their opposition to what they perceive as the Girl Scouts’ increasing support of people and advocacy groups with ties, however tendentious, to abortion.

The most recent in a long line of perceived offenses, and the one that spurred the latest cookie boycott, was the organization’s alleged endorsement of Texas state senator Wendy Davis, who last June famously filibustered the state’s new law that will close most of the abortion providers in Texas. The Girl Scouts’ Twitter account tweeted a link to a Huffington Post Live segment discussing potential candidates for woman of the year for 2013. Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was mentioned as a contender, as were singer Beyonce, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai and even “the brave women on social media.”

In fact, Girl Scout cookie boycotts appear to be a longstanding tradition for the religious right, albeit a mostly Sisyphean one. Just a few months earlier, in October, right-wing Colorado radio pastors Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner of Generations Radio were urging a boycott of cookies because the Girl Scouts were a “wicked organization” that “doesn’t promote godly womanhood” and in fact “is antithetical to a biblical vision for womanhood,” according to Swanson. In 2012, the Family Research Council, the Christian right advocacy group headed by Tony Perkins, urged its 455,000 followers to pray that cookie sales would lag so that the Girl Scouts would break off their alleged relationship with Planned Parenthood. “The Scouts had better confess their errors and make a clean break while they can,” read the alert, which also urged prayer for the congressional defunding of Planned Parenthood. Even as far back as a decade ago, anti-abortion organizations were boycotting their local troops to punish them for participating in events with Planned Parenthood affiliates. 

They might be too late to the game on this, because I've already bought 2 batches of cookies, 4 boxes the first time, 2 the next, with Samoas being in both orders

It's kind of obvious that they want to seem to support Boy Scouts, I guess, for their past views that homosexuals shouldn't be part of Scouting. As if…. And it's quite obvious that Cons love to pick on those least able to defend themselves, this continuing attack against Girl Scouts being Exhibit A  B  C  D  E aw heck, Z for mean spirited Republicans.

I'm going to keep buying Girl Scout cookies as long as they sell them, no matter how much my family complains "we're getting fat", and I'll enjoy the taste much more knowing it peeves off a whole set of grumpy conservatives who love picking on the poor, the elderly, and hard working children having fun and learning good citizenship while feeding the world's need for more cookies. 

Today In BS: Paul Ryan And The “Free Government Lunch”

Stop Whining About Overreaching

A story from outside Colorado, but illustrative for when the same thing happens here. Which it does. A lot. Raw Story:

[Rep. Paul] Ryan’s remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Thursday regarding a “young boy from a very poor family” relying on “a government program” for his lunches was strikingly similar to the premise of the book An Invisible Thread, which recounted author Laura Schroff’s 1986 meeting with an 11-year-old “homeless panhandler” named Maurice, who was receiving lunches through a school program…

On Thursday, Ryan recounted nearly the exact same story, attributing it to Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Director Eloise Anderson, who was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker (R). But Ryan said it was Anderson who met a young student who told her he did not want a lunch from a government program, but one served in a brown paper bag.

“He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him,” Ryan said. “This is what the left does not understand.” [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Paul Ryan (R).

Rep. Paul Ryan (R).

The Los Angeles Times has a little more of Ryan's speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday:

"She once met a young boy from a very poor family, and every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him."

In Ryan's hands, this became a lesson for "the left….What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul."

But as it turns out, Ryan's story was lifted and misattributed from an almost thirty-year-old (that is, Reagan administration) story about a panhandling kid in New York City, not Wisconsin–who didn't want the author's money, but was happy to take food in a brown paper bag because it implied a caring home life. The true story had nothing whatsoever to do with a "government program" of any kind. Times:

So we start with a story about a harried sales executive learning about life from an abandoned child. That gets transformed, via the Republican wringer, into a lesson about the supposedly soul-sapping effect of a government nutritional program, and thence into a reproach to "the left," which doesn't care about the souls of our children, only about making sure they're, you know, fed. This is how the old game of "Telephone" is played in Washington today.

Once outed, Ryan issued an apology of sorts via his Facebook page: "I have just learned that Secretary Anderson misspoke, and that the story she told was improperly sourced. I regret failing to verify the original source of the story, but I appreciate her taking the time to share her insights."

Rep. Paul Ryan has a long and very well-documented history of petty dishonesty during stump speeches, including the one from 2012 about having climbed "40" Colorado fourteener peaks. You would think that so many repeat examples of Ryan demonstrably lying would convince him to, you know, stop lying.

But apparently, that would make for less exciting speeches.

Support Jeffco Kids: New Group to Educate Citizens on School Board Actions

The new conservative members of the Jefferson County School Board have created such a stir (and not in a good way) that a group of parents and community leaders has formed a new organization to keep the public informed about the Board's actions. From the Denver Post:

Its mission is to "communicate to the community to let them know what is going on," group co-founder Shawna Fritzler said.

Fritzler, a Republican, was an active supporter of the 2012 campaign for measures 3A and 3B (bond and mill levy requests for Jeffco Public Schools that passed), is a legislative and advocacy co-chair for Jeffco PTA, co-chair of the board's strategic planning and advisory council and on its choice enrollment steering committee…

Support Jeffco Kids is registered as a 501(c)4 nonprofit and its website solicits donations. Fritzler said it has raised $6,000 so far to go toward website operating costs and attorney fees.

The organization plans to host community meetings and send out e-mail updates, Fritzler said. A post in its Facebook page, facebook.com/SupportJeffcoKids, asks for donations to help send mailers to "all of Jeffco."

 

Jeffco Schools Community Outreach Survey Results

The Jefferson County School Board has been a hot topic of conversation since three Republicans won seats in 2013 to give conservatives control of the 5-member board. From surprise announcements about hiring decisions to forcing retiring Superintendent Cindy Stevenson to leave her post before the end of the school year (which she had previously announced), new board members Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk have been pushing the limits of legality since being sworn-in to office in early December. 

Jeffco Public Schools just released the results of its Community Survey, conducted from Feb. 5-11, and it's a good bet that many of the 13,000 responses came from parents and residents who have been concerned about the direction of the new board. The Community Survey is intended to help the district set its priorities for the coming year(s), and the results showed some clear preferences. You can see the full results here, but respondents overwhelmingly prioritized three goals: Sustaining Program Electives, Reducing Class Sizes, and Paying Competitive Salaries. On the question, "Jeffco Should Expand Options Schools," a sizable majority of 61% disagreed.

Take a look at a summary of the response totals after the jump…

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Jeffco School Board Open Thread

For all my Jeffco peeps:

This thread is intended to be a place to share information about the struggle for a representative school board in Jefferson County, vs. right wing ideologues that apparently would like to:

 

  • break the education unions
  • channel more funding to charter schools
  • politicize and narrow the curriculum to fit right wing ideology

So here's a link to a page, Jefferson County School Board Watch, that appears to be a forum and clearinghouse for rumors and information on what's going on with the School Board. A community member reports on intimidation and sneaky tactics at an informational meeting Feb 11..

 

You all will have to take it from here; I'm just putting up this thread. Peace!

Another Gun Lobby Fail: Armed Teacher Bill Fizzles

Moms Demand Action event at the Capitol yesterday.

Moms Demand Action event at the Capitol yesterday.

AP's Kristen Wyatt reports on action yesterday in the Colorado House Judiciary Committee:

A Democratic House Judiciary Committee voted 7-4 to reject another Republican bill to expand gun rights. The bill would have allowed school districts to decide if they wanted to let teachers, not just designated school resource officers, carry concealed weapons…

Supporters of the idea were far outnumbered by teachers and students who packed the hearing to speak against the idea. [Pols emphasis]

"There's no reason for teachers to have guns in school when we're trying to keep guns out of schools in the first place," said Karina Vargas, who was paralyzed in 2010 from a shooting outside Aurora Central High.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Gun control advocates, who want fewer firearms in schools, not more, again packed the hearing room at the Capitol Tuesday, intent on demonstrating strength — and staunch opposition to the proposal to allow willing teachers and school staffers to serve as a first line of defense in the instance of a school shooting.

“We have officers who are trained in responding to these incidents, and now we’re adding to that people who don’t have that training,” said Michael Eaton, the chief of security for Denver Public Schools…

After all the supporters of the proposal had finished testifying, the committee continued to hear from the bill’s opponents for another two hours as gun control advocates — even knowing the committee’s vote was likely to go their way — pressed their points. [Pols emphasis]

Empty seats at hearing for House Bill 1157 yesterday.

Empty seats at hearing for House Bill 1157 yesterday.

​At this point, quite a number of Republican proposals to repeal the gun safety legislation passed in the 2013 session of the Colorado General Assembly have been heard, but despite calls by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and other groups for protests and mass testimony, nothing like the pandemonium seen at the Capitol last year has materialized. Despite excuses now being made, this does not appear to have been the intention of the gun lobby, who urged their supporters to turn out in large numbers or risk "emboldening the left." 

It doesn't matter if gun rights supporters now consider their protests "futile" in the face of Democratic control of the legislature–this is an election year, and the failure to hold together the angry momentum they worked so hard to cultivate in 2013 is a major turnaround that will hurt Republicans this November. That failure is already evident in polling that shows public support has actually grown in Colorado for universal background checks and the magazine limit law, even as the gun lobby assailed them 24/7.

As for this particular piece of legislation, allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons, it's been suggested to us that the whole emotional push by Republicans for this bill in the wake of last December's shooting at Arapahoe High School may have been a misguided waste of everyone's time. In 2003, the GOP-controlled Colorado legislature passed the Concealed Carry Act of 2003. This legislation, signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Owens, appears to allow school districts to designate anyone they wish as a "security officer" (not an official title that requires any training, mind you), and the law specifically allows persons so designated to carry concealed weapons on school grounds.

A permittee who is employed or retained by contract by a school district as a school security officer may carry a concealed handgun onto the real property, or into any improvement erected thereon, of a public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school while the permittee is on duty;

As we understand it, this 2003 law allows school districts to designate "security officers" who can carry concealed weapons. And if they really wanted, there's no reason why that couldn't be teachers. Note that we're not making a judgment about the efficacy of arming teachers, which as you can read above, far more witnesses turned out to testify against than in favor of. What we're saying is, it appears that yesterday's debate over arming teachers, in addition to being emotionally manipulative so soon after the Arapahoe High School shooting, was superfluous.

And that kind of puts the proverbial cherry on top of their failure.

Perlmutter Statement on Resignation of Cindy Stevenson

We'll have much more on the big news in Jeffco last weekend, but in the meantime, here's a statement from Congressman Ed Perlmutter on the (second) resignation of Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson:

On Saturday morning at a meeting of the Jeffco School Board, nationally recognized superintendent Cindy Stevenson announced that she would resign her position at the end of the month instead of the end of June as originally planned. She stated the new board majority made it nearly impossible to focus on serving our community and Jeffco’s 85,000 students. Read the full story here, or watch the video of Saturday’s board meeting here.

Cindy Stevenson has been an outstanding superintendent for Jefferson County Public Schools for 12 years.  Last year she announced her plans to retire at the end of this school year in June but clearly that wasn't soon enough for the new school board members. It's a shame she wasn't allowed to fulfill her term as previously agreed upon by the board.  Her dedication and commitment to providing the highest quality education to our kids was an asset to our schools and our community. I'm proud to call her my friend and thankful for her public service.

Sincerely,
Ed Perlmutter

2013′s Top Ten #8: The Slaughter of Amendment 66 and How it Changed School Board Outcomes

A metaphor.

A metaphor.

The crushing failure of Amendment 66, the school finance measure, was significant for many reasons that extend well beyond the stinging 65-35% margin of defeat.

The campaign itself was an abject failure the likes of which Colorado hasn't seen since Bob Beauprez was staring at a horse's ass. Consider: Proposition 103, which was meagerly funded and unsupported by many public officials (including Gov. John Hickenlooper) failed by a 64-36% margin in 2011. Given Colorado's general opposition to taxing anything, nobody would have blamed the Amendment 66 campaign if it didn't pass in 2013 — but a $10 million campaign should never have performed so miserably as that it couldn't even do better than an shoestring-budged proposition on the ballot just two years earlier. So what happened? As we wrote in early November, this was a campaign that made little sense from the start:

Heavily consultant-driven with a rigidly controlled message, this is a campaign that always seemed afraid of its own shadow despite the massive resources invested. Proponents relied much too heavily on lavish buys of slick television ads, and counted on an "under the radar" field campaign effort that completely failed. The complicated details of Amendment 66 were freely misrepresented by opponents, and the campaign was never quite able to keep up. Apart from the huge ad buys, seemingly no effort was made at secondary earned media, and in fact Amendment 66 appeared to garner less coverage in the media than Proposition 103 did two years before. If this was by design, in hindsight it was clearly a mistake.

Throughout the campaign, proponents expressed confidence that grew increasingly brittle as it became clear the initiative was in trouble. But with no real strategy other than pouring cash into TV ads, the campaign was powerless to do anything to change course. They had their playbook and they stuck with it to the bitter end…

…It was a tough climate for Amendment 66, but Democrats also failed to use the resources they had this time imaginatively–or even just definitively. You can't pass an amendment like this without having a big conversation with Colorado voters, which is a major reason why Referendum C passed in 2005. Amendment 66 needed to be the issue of the election that everyone was talking about, but it wasn't. Anecdotally, we talked to a lot of potential supporters who didn't even know what it was. With a tax increase like this, you absolutely must grab hold of the narrative and never let go. You don't tell people why they should vote for it; you make the case that they must support the measure.

Amendment 66 had the full support of Hickenlooper and any number of elected officials in Colorado, but the strategy outlined by consultants led by Mike Melanson was to somehow run a nearly $1 billion tax increase "under the radar." Hickenlooper was rarely used publicly in support of Amendment 66, and that absence of visible leadership was harmful to both the campaign and the Governor. You can argue about Hickenlooper's favorability ratings, but he's still the Governor of Colorado and the leader of the state — if he isn't front-and-center on the campaign, it gives the impression that he isn't completely committed to the plan, and voters see that.

Where the Amendment 66 campaign really failed was in its decision to avoid "reliable" Democratic voters in order to target some polling- and focus group-molded monster of an electorate that it decided would be the key to passing the Amendment. The result was that "reliable" Democratic voters didn't really know anything about Amendment 66 and were not invested in the outcome…and you can't pass a tax increase in a low-turnout election (which 2013 became). Unlike 2005's Referendum C, which created water-cooler discussions across Colorado, very few low-information voters knew anything about Amendment 66. As a result, the majority of people who were committed to voting in 2013 were those who were anti-Amendment 66; the anti-66 campaign had a natural conservative base that will always turn out to vote 'NO' on things.

The dismal defeat of Amendment 66 will give pause to efforts at raising taxes in the near future, which is a serious problem in a state like Colorado where funding for anything remains a major issue. But the more immediate impact of November's election (aside from the money that schools will not receive from 66), was felt in local school board elections in counties like Jefferson and Douglas. The Jefferson County School Board, for example, is now controlled by right-wing, pro-voucher forces that have already made clear their intention to ignore the public and ram through their own initiatives. The Jeffco School Board flipped when all three open seats went to right-wing candidates; but if the Amendment 66 campaign hadn't done so little to promote turnout among a public education-supportive base, it's likely that at least one of those three seats would have gone to a more moderate candidate and prevented wholesale radical changes.

Low turnout related to Amendment 66 also destroyed the hopes of school board candidates in Douglas County that were seeking to retake control of a board that, in just a few years, had dismantled a school district that had been among the best in the nation. Moderates came within just a few hundred votes of retaking control in Douglas County — which they almost certainly could have accomplished had overall voter turnout not been so dismal.

The colossal failure of Amendment 66 wasn't just one of the biggest political stories of 2013 — its impacts will be felt for many years to come.

More Questions (and Ducking) on New Jeffco School Board

Ken Witt

Jeffco School Board President Ken Witt: Silent but Deadly?

Following up on a story that first appeared here at Colorado Pols (and Jeffco Pols), Zahira Torres of the Denver Post digs into the strange goings-on among the three new members of the Jefferson County School Board:

The Jefferson County school board's new majority may have skirted a law that requires them to conduct business openly by hiring an attorney without a public interview process, according to an open-government expert.

Thomas Kelley, a lawyer for the Colorado Press Association and The Denver Post, said the board's 3-2 decision last week to hire Colorado Springs-based law firm Miller Sparks LLC may have violated the state's open-meetings act, which requires board members to conduct business in public.

"It's not all that common for a board of a public entity to, by itself, conduct interviews, but when they do, at least when it doesn't involve interviews for a personnel position, they have to do those interviews in public," Kelley said.

Led by board president Ken Witt, the majority hired Miller Sparks to represent the school board without seeking proposals for the contract, publicly vetting the candidates or getting cost estimates. Witt and board members Julie Williams and John Newkirk — who were elected in November on a conservative platform — did not return phone calls seeking comment. [Pols emphasis]

 

New board members Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk continue to thumb their noses at the idea of an open and transparent government. The trio has consistently refused to speak to the media, not returning calls for this story or an editorial that appeared yesterday in the Post. From Post editorial writer Alicia Caldwell:

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