ICYMI: What the Hell Are You Doing, Douglas County?

As FOX31 Denver reports:

The Douglas County School District has purchased 10 long rifles for its armed security officers.

The Bushmaster long rifles will not be housed on school grounds. They will be locked up at the district security office and bus depot along Highway 85.

“The weapons currently every day will be inside of a locked safe in a secured room inside the security department. They’ll be deployed into a locking mechanism that is inside our patrol vehicles very similar to the locking mechanisms that are inside law enforcement patrol vehicles and they will only be deployed if there is a situation where they need to be deployed,” Director of Safety and Security Rich Payne said.

The long rifles and equipment cost the district $12,300.

What? Why? This is fucking insane.

A Few Words on that Child Abuser/DPS Board Appointee

standholmes

MiDian Holmes.

MiDian Holmes.

We wanted to make sure the recent controversy on the Denver Public Schools board, in which a newly-appointed school board member connected to the corporate-backed education “reform” group Stand for Children was exposed in the media as having been convicted of child abuse, didn’t get too far in the rear-view mirror without a mention. Eric Gorski and Melanie Asmar at Chalkbeat Colorado reported last Thursday:

MiDian Holmes announced on her Facebook page Thursday night that she would not accept her appointment to the Denver school board, saying she did not want to be a distraction after details of a misdemeanor child abuse conviction became public…

In 2005, she was charged with “wrongs to minors” in violation of the Denver municipal code. Documents explaining what led to the charge were not immediately available. Holmes was sentenced to a year of probation, after which the case was dismissed.

In 2006, she was charged with child abuse in violation of state law. Documents reveal that Holmes left her three young children — age 7, 6 and 2 — home alone for more than eight hours while she was at work. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse and again was sentenced to probation.

FOX 31 reported more details from MiDian Holmes’ second child abuse case, which Holmes was reportedly not completely honest about with the DPS board that appointed her:

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Senate GOP Spox Thwarted By Senate GOP (Again)

Over the past week or so the Colorado Senate GOP Majority Office has loudly promoted Senate Bill 16-148, legislation that would have required high school students to pass an exam on civics patterned on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Test. This bill had bipartisan co-sponsors in the House and Senate, but was primarily the brainchild of principal Senate sponsor GOP Sen. Owen Hill.

On Twitter, Senate Americans For Prosperity GOP spokesman Sean Paige leaned hard on this bill to attack legislative Democrats–despite the bill’s Democratic cosponsors in both chambers:

As you can see, the Senate GOP’s press office was dead-set on making the debate over Senate Bill 148 a partisan issue, regardless of how many Democrats signed on as cosponsors. But today on the Senate floor, something else entirely happened:

That’s right! Senate Bill 148 died today after two Republican Senators, Jerry Sonnenberg and Ray Scott, cited existing burdens on school districts–especially rural districts they represent in the General Assembly–as a reason to reject another “mandate.”

To be clear, our purpose today is not to debate the merits of this defeated bill. We’ve heard good arguments for and against it, and as we noted the bill had bipartisan support and sponsorship. But folks, what the hell is Senate President Bill Cadman’s spokesman doing attacking Democrats on a bill for which he obviously should have done a whip count of his own caucus before popping off?

In any other situation, we’d call this very bad spokesmanship. But the truth, as has been the inside scoop at the Capitol all year, is that Americans For Prosperity’s former spox Sean Paige doesn’t have this job to represent the Senate GOP majority.

All he did here was prove that again.

Derailing Ed Reform With Colorado Senate Republicans

From top: Sens. Owen Hill, Vicki Marble, Tim Neville, Laura Woods, Chris Holbert.

From top: Sens. Owen Hill, Vicki Marble, Tim Neville, Laura Woods, Chris Holbert.

Chalkbeat Colorado’s Todd Engdahl reports on another odd development in the GOP-controlled Senate Education Committee, where a bipartisan bill to alleviate high-stakes testing pressure on high school freshmen in Colorado went off the rails yesterday:

A bill that would ban mandatory state language arts and math tests in ninth grade cleared the Senate Education Committee Thursday. But the panel added seemingly extraneous amendments that are likely to reduce the bill’s already slim chances of passing the full legislature.

The original version of the bill merely would have banned ninth grade testing and was sponsored by conservative Republican Sen. Vicki Marble of Fort Collins, along with liberal Democratic Sen. Mike Merrifield of Colorado Springs and two committee Republicans. All the sponsors were dissatisfied with last session’s compromise testing law, which retained ninth grade exams.

But from there, bipartisan consensus came apart as bizarre GOP amendments piled on–in particular:

Rural districts that chose not to give the ninth grade tests would be allowed to hire non-licensed teachers… [Pols emphasis]

That’s right–Republicans actually passed an amendment to this bill allowing unlicensed teachers to be hired in rural school districts.

“I’m baffled by the amendment,” said Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora.

“I see absolute no connection,” said Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood. “This completely changes the direction of the bill.”

Hill offered no detailed rationale for the changes, either during discussion or during a brief hallway interview after the hearing…

It’s anybody’s guess what Sen. Owen Hill was trying to achieve with this amendment, but the rest of the Senate Education Committee including top-tier Democratic target Sen. Laura Waters Woods all jumped on board. Earlier in this same hearing, a bill for tax credits to offset private school tuition passed on a party-line vote. Perhaps this bill to eliminate ninth grade testing was a little too bipartisan, and Hill needed to spike it?

Whatever the reason, you had Senate Republicans yesterday, including their most vulnerable incumbent, voting for private school vouchers–and then voting to let unlicensed teachers into rural schools. The grand scheme at work here had better be good, because on any normal day we’d call these highly toxic votes.

“Militia Class” At Pueblo County Middle School?

Reporter Lena Howland of KRDO handles guns in a Colorado City middle school.

Reporter Lena Howland of KRDO handles guns in a Colorado City middle school.

A reader forwarded us this rather alarming story from KRDO-13 out of Pueblo County yesterday, about a course offered to middle school students in Colorado City:

“It’s a lot of guns to have in a school, especially because you don’t have this many just at your house or something,” 8th grade student Courtney Proctor said.

[Jim] Heath, a state coordinator of Project Appleseed, brought the three day program to Craver Middle School. The course aims to teach people across the country how to fire weapons accurately and safely, with a foundation of American history…

Volunteers from Project Appleseed and the NRA worked with the students to eliminate the element of fear associated with guns.

At first blush, a course in gun safety and marksmanship doesn’t seem that out of place, especially in a small-town setting like Colorado City. In today’s climate of paranoia over even the slightest perception of being “anti-gun,” a public school’s course on gun safety in a small Colorado town is not something big-city Democrats would want to take the political risk of meddling with.

"Redcoat" Appleseed silhouette targets.

“Redcoat” Appleseed silhouette targets.

The problem is, if you look into this “Project Appleseed,” as the New York Times did a few years ago, there seems to be a lot more going on here than “gun safety.”

So far Appleseed has taught 25,000 people to shoot; 7,000 more will learn by the end of this year. Its instructors teach this skill not for the purpose of hunting or sport. [Pols emphasis] They see marksmanship as fundamental to Americans’ ability to defend their liberty, whether against foreigners or the agents of a (hypothetical) tyrannical government. Appleseed frames this activity as being somewhere between a historical re-enactment and a viable last resort…

Inside the Appleseed Project, the question of where an armed citizenry should draw this line remains open. [Pols emphasis] Later that week, as he sipped a Coke at a nearby McDonald’s, [founder Jim] Dailey flirted with an answer. “If you ever have to reach for your guns, you’ve lost before you started,” he said, and then doubled back. “Now, there are probably some narrow, hypothetical exceptions to that. Like if somebody in the government said, ‘We’re taking over the country.’ You might find there’d be a spontaneous. . . . I don’t know. I don’t know what it would be. And to be perfectly honest with you, I wouldn’t want to see it.”

…Dailey’s frustration with the government peaked during the 1990s after the fatal conflicts at Ruby Ridge and Waco. “Uncle Sam told 76 Americans to come out of their own house, lay down their arms and spread-eagle on the ground,” he says of Waco. “Does that sound to you like the sovereignty of the individual?” At that time, growing restive, he bought more than half a million pounds of rifle stocks at an army-surplus auction. He named his new venture “Fred’s,” after his dog, and wrote indictments of the Clintons and the “New World Order” that reached 94,000 readers. As the radical right gathered steam in the ’90s, Dailey’s anger fixated on the United Nations, which he saw as a metagovernment bent on covertly undermining American sovereignty. [Pols emphasis]

The Waco siege.

The Waco siege.

As you can see, Project Appleseed has motives, ulterior or not, that extend distantly beyond the stated goal of “eliminating the element of fear” about guns. In the photo you see above right from the 8th grade public school classroom the indoor portion of this course was taught in, there’s a list of grievances presumably shared by American colonists–including taxes, religious freedom, and “taking rifles away.” But to the founder of Project Appleseed, the Revolutionary War is not some remote history lesson.

It’s something they train the kids to fight. And that is a dubious thing indeed to teach in a public school.

Student Loans: This Is What Bad Press Looks Like

monopoly-clipart-nTEBqG8TAKDVR FOX 31 reported last night on the death in the Republican-controlled Senate State Affairs committee yesterday of Senate Bill 16-043, a bill to increase disclosure of terms for private student loans:

The facts haven’t changed: The average college student now graduates with nearly $30,000 in debt. In Colorado, residents collectively account for more than $40 billion in student loans…

“I am $100,000 in debt,” Shannon Leaseu said. “I’ve had to sell my house and my furniture because my house and my student loan bill was as much as my mortgage.”

Leaseu was one of several students who testified in front of the State Affairs Committee in favor of a bill that would require private lenders to more fully disclose what students will owe after they graduate.

“This is the know before you owe bill,” State Sen. Morgan Carroll said. “The student debt crisis is impacting everybody regardless of party.”

The Aurora Sentinel’s Quincy Snowdon has more on what the bill would have done:

Senate Bill 43 would have bolstered protections for students taking out private loans by requiring lenders to disclose interest rates, penalty fees, payment options, cancellation procedures, how to qualify for federal loans and the eventual total amount of the loan, including interest. The bill also would have barred lenders from providing gifts to both public and private colleges and prohibits lenders from charging students who choose to prepay their loans.

Pretty straightforward, right? Unfortunately, as FOX 31 continued, the GOP-held Senate’s “kill committee” wasn’t interested:

Only one group spoke in opposition to the legislation during the hearing, the Colorado Bankers Association.

“Private lenders take on an additional risk that government lenders do not. Government student loans can be excused in bankruptcy, private loans cannot,” said Jenifer Waller, senior vice president with the Colorado Bankers Association.

That testimony was apparently all that was needed to kill the legislation, with the committee voting against the law on a party-line vote. [Pols emphasis]

In addition to getting her testimony dyslexically backward, the Colorado Bankers Association lobbyist who was the sole witness against this bill was not being entirely truthful. Under the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, most “private” student loans were reclassified to make them non-dischargeable in bankruptcy just like federal loans. Borrowers must in either case prove that repayment would cause an “undue hardship.” Prior to bankruptcy “reform,” private loans were more easily dischargeable.

But we digress: none of that would have even mattered to the GOP’s “kill committee.”

Out-of-control student debt is an enormous crisis affecting millions of Americans. It’s an underreported issue with great importance to the pocketbooks of individuals and families across Colorado. Prosecuted correctly, the political value of the issue could be decisive in a close election–more likely with each passing year as more and more Americans fall into the trap.

When that happens, if you value your career you won’t want to be the one siding with the lenders.

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GOP Colorado Senator Fights For Anti-Vaxxer “Rights”

Measles.

Measles.

A Facebook post yesterday from GOP Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Loveland warns of a bill, House Bill 16-1164, that he says should be “of concern” to Coloradans who believe the various discredited theories about childhood immunizations being linked to autism and other medical conditions:

There is a bill in the House which should be of concern to all parents who have chosen to exercise their statutory authority to determine what vaccinations are appropriate for their children.

HB-1164 will require the parents of children attending school to directly register with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment when seeking any immunization exemptions. Currently completed immunization exemption forms are stored at individual schools, or for some homeschool situations, the parents themselves. The centralized data collection required in HB-1194 is deeply troubling for many parents who have exercised their statutory authority to determine what immunizations are appropriate for their children. This is sensitive information that many believe should not be held by the state in a centralized database which is available to all interested government agencies…

If this bill is to move forward at all it should specifically exempt all students who receive their education in a home setting and allow all classroom style schools (private, charter and traditional public) to opt out if that particular school determines this centralized data system does not fit their situation.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

What we’re talking about here is a bill that would require parents who opt their children out from vaccinations to file that exemption with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment instead of the individual school the student is attending. This would straightforwardly improve collection and management of data about student immunizations, which helps health officials understand how vaccines are working to prevent communicable diseases–or not, depending on how well they work and how widely the public adopts them.

That last part is, of course, the problem. With outbreaks of measles and other preventable diseases a growing issue in other areas of the country, fringe activists who have made their careers out of scaring the public away from perfectly safe vaccines have real consequences to answer for. As Lundberg alludes to above, Colorado law on childhood vaccinations is already very weak–anti-vaxxers would use the word “enlightened”–allowing parents to opt their children out of vaccines for any “personal reason.”

Well folks, not only is Lundberg in support of sending unvaccinated kids to school, he doesn’t want the pesky public health department getting in the way even a little.

Taking Away Parental Leave: Where Is The Outrage?

GOP legislators line up to testify against parental leave.

GOP legislators line up to testify against parental leave.

We’re surprised at how little coverage there’s been of a bill that could become a major flashpoint, House Bill 16-1002–the bill reauthorizing the state’s parental leave law for academic responsibilities that was on the books for years before it sunset last year. We took note yesterday of the crowd of “family values” male Republican legislators who lined up to testify against the bill in the House, and this is the same bill Rep. Kevin Priola impaled himself on by voting no in committee after being excused to take his child to a doctor’s appointment.

But as exciting as the debate over this bill has been, there has been little discussion in the mainstream press. In addition to the Chalkbeat Colorado story we linked to yesterday, the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby wrote this week:

Democrats, who support HB1002 and enacted the law in 2009 at a time when they held full control of the Legislature, said it’s an important law to keep because parents need to be involved in their children’s education.

Republicans, who killed a similar bill last year to continue the law, said it’s not needed, saying it also places an unfair burden on businesses.

Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said the state’s economy has done well since 2009, unemployment is low, Colorado has consistently been ranked high as a favorable place to do business, and leads the nation in job growth and business development.

“All these statistics and all these rankings have happened when the bill that we’re discussing was on the books,” he said. “So how can we argue that it’s bad for business?” [Pols emphasis]

We see this bill as a major opportunity for Democrats to differentiate themselves from Republicans in advance of this year’s elections. The key point is that parental leave for school activities was the law of the land for five years, and it didn’t hurt anyone. Parents in Colorado who had access to parental leave between 2009 and September of 2015 have now had it taken away.

Last year, the refusal by Senate Republicans to fund the long-acting contraception program credited with a dramatic drop in teen pregnancy in Colorado made national headlines repeatedly. Clear evidence of cost savings from a relatively small investment that Republicans refused to fund out of politically unsightly ideological prejudice has done damage that may not be fully felt until this November.

If it gets on the media’s radar, parental leave could turn into a similarly harmful episode for statehouse Republicans. With no evidence of any harm to employers from Colorado’s parental leave law, and the obvious benefit to families with school-age children being taken away by the GOP’s refusal to reauthorize the law, every vote against House Bill 1002 is a big liability in an election year. The mailers and TV spots will not be kind.

And so far, that’s every Republican House member save one.

Williams lashes out at ‘Liars and Cheats’ in Jeffco

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Recalled Jeffco School Board member Julie Williams lashed out at Jeffco voters and others last month, writing on Facebook:

Williams: “Liars and Cheats and the majority of the people believed the rhetoric.”

Williams’ sour-grapes comment came after state data was released on the amount of money spent by state groups to recall Williams and other conservative school board members from office, prompting Williams to write, “Infuriating that being exposed does not mean anything.”

The data did not include figures for how much was spent by organizations that are exempt from disclosure and campaigned indirectly to try to keep Williams in office, despite her repeated gaffes and substantive flaws that even infuriated fellow conservatives.

Correction: This post initially stated that Americans for Prosperity did not disclose campaign spending. Some spending was disclosed.

Scrubbing Jeffco Schools Clean of Partisan Turd-Shiners

millerAs the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reported yesterday, two of the more controversial expenditures approved by the outgoing right-wing majority on the Jefferson County school board are swiftly going the way of the dodo following this month’s blowout recall election:

Brad Miller, the attorney hired by the conservative majority that was ousted in this month’s recall election, resigned this morning.

Miller was hired by the Jeffco board just a month after the November, 2013 election, a hiring that some have claimed violated the state’s open meetings law.

In his resignation email to board liaison Helen Neal, Miller cited the incoming school board’s desire to use the district’s legal counsel and statements by new board members that they would not need a private attorney…

As our readers will recall, the hiring of attorney Brad Miller by Jeffco Schools was hotly controversial, both due to his shady, very possibly illegal approval process, and his known-quantity status as an insider advocate for charter schools. According to the Denver Post’s report today, Miller’s contract stipulated $7,500 monthly for “services not to exceed 30 hours per month.” Nice work if you can get it!

Novitas' Michelle Balch Lyng (left), with former Jeffco comms director Lisa Pinto.

Novitas’ Michelle Balch Lyng (left), with former Jeffco comms director Lisa Pinto.

As Goodland continues at the Independent, Miller isn’t the only line-item from the old board’s tenure being shown the door:

Saturday, the school district posted a job opening for a chief communications officer. Those duties have been handled lately by Novitas Communications and Michelle Balch Lyng.

Novitas, a public-relations firm, was brought in last February, under a $50,000 five-month contract, to handle “supplemental communications duties.”

Novitas was hired by Lisa Pinto, who served as communications chief for less than six months. Pinto, an attorney with no background in public education communications, was deemed unqualified by the district search committee. Hired by Superintendent Dan McMinimee, she was frequently criticized for unprofessional behavior. After Pinto resigned, Lyng became the district’s chief spokesperson…

In retrospect, Novitas Communications’ service to Jefferson County Public Schools was an unqualified disaster. A solidly GOP-aligned public relations outfit staffed by local Republican usual suspects, Novitas was brought in to “supplement” the work of another longtime Republican Party communications flack, Lisa Pinto. Pinto’s lack of qualifications and by-all-accounts horrible interpersonal skills necessitated Novitas’ “help”–which ironically even more pointedly demonstrated Pinto’s uselessness, and hastened her departure a short while later under a considerable cloud.

But in the end, as is now a matter of history, Novitas couldn’t save the board majority that hired them.

Observers expect that the new Jeffco school board majority will work toward re-establishing the status quo ante in the district’s public relations office, using qualified district employees instead of high-priced contractors. Likewise with the board’s need for legal counsel. We haven’t heard if that future will include ex-Novitas GOP media operative Devan Crean, but we could certainly see how it might not.

The moral of the story: when your agenda for your organization is constructive instead of malicious, there’s less need for all that, you know, “outside help.”

County Commissioner again accuses Obama of promoting charter schools with ties to Turkish cleric

(What a swell primary this is going to be – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.

El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.

A Colorado Springs county commissioner, who’s considering entering the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, is again alleging that President Obama backed a national education program, in part, as a way to establish U.S. charter schools linked to a Turkish Islamic cleric.

“One of the reasons that President Obama was actually looking at and amenable and actually kind of agreeable to, if you will, Common Core was, that would be a way to influence and infiltrate and open up charter schools to able to have the Fethullah Gulen charter schools, which were bringing teachers over from Turkey,” said El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton Monday on KLZ 560-AM.

Littleton did not cite her evidence for this, but it reflects what she said at a conservative conference in March, as reported by Scott Keyes of ThinkProgress.  It’s not clear what Common Core, which is an education curriculum, has to do with establishing charter schools in the United States.

Followers of the reclusive Gulen, many with Turkish ties, have opened charter schools worldwide over the past decade, including over 100 in the U.S.  They focus on math and science, in keeping with Gulen’s notion that devout Muslims should not teach religion but science instead. “Studying physics, mathematics, and chemistry is worshipping God,” he sermonizes, according to a CBS investigation.

CBS discussed allegations that the Gulen schools are exploiting foreign-born teachers and the charter-school system for profit–and that the schools are secretly “promoting an Islamic agenda.”

CBS interviewed a teacher who claimed she was exploited, but CBS couldn’t confirm these accusations regarding Islam, reporting that “we looked into this and Islam is not taught at all.”

But Littleton implies that religious education is taking place at a Colorado charter school, which she allegedly visited, with ties to Gulen.

Littleton: “When I went in, it was apparent to me that the some of the pictures and things had been taken off in the walls. And they practiced, you know, some of the Muslim practices that are taught in the Koran, is what I observed when I was there.”

In March, Littleton told ThinkProgress that these charter schools teach students to “hate Americans.” This may or may not connect with her belief, expressed at a Alliance Defending Freedom Conference in July in Colorado Springs, that churches should prepare to “respond biblically” to disasters like “martial law.”  Anyway, when I hear back from Littleton, I’ll ask her about this, too.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (Nov. 5)

Get More SmarterThe Colorado Secretary of State has released early (and unofficial) voter turnout numbers; enjoy the spreadsheet. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Governor John Hickenlooper has asked the Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether or not Attorney General Cynthia Coffman can enter the state into a lawsuit over the objections of the Governor. From Mark Harden of the Denver Business Journal:

The Clean Power Plan, adopted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in August, is intended to cut carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by 32 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, with coal-fired power plants the main target. States were given flexibility in how they will meet the goals.

The governor, a Democrat who supports the power plan, believes that Coffman, a Republican, overstepped her authority in joining the 24-state suit. He argues that he, not Coffman, “has the ultimate authority to decide on behalf of the state when to sue the federal government in federal court,” Hickenlooper’s office said in a statement.

The filing says that the governor is not raising an issue before the Supreme Court over the merits of the suit against the Clean Power Act, but rather with what he perceives as a challenge to his authority as governor.

“The attorney general has filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits without support of or collaboration with her clients,” said Jacki Cooper Melmed, chief legal counsel to the governor, referring to Hickenlooper and past governors as clients of the state’s attorney general.

► National media outlets were keeping an eye on Colorado to see how voters responded to high-profile school board campaigns. Local media outlets were a bit less cognizant, for some reason. As we wrote yesterday:

As our state’s foremost bellwether suburban population center, what happened in Jefferson County is hugely prophetic for the direction of Colorado politics. Democrats have finally broken the curse of off-year elections going famously badly for them, and established critical momentum going into next year’s general election in a county whose voters can swing the entire state. Without a doubt, Democratic campaigns at every level of American politics are looking at these results and thinking big.

As for our local media? They can either tell the story of this new reality, or be left behind by it.

Meanwhile, in Jefferson County, Superintendent Dan McMinimee sent out a “please don’t fire me” letter to Jeffco employees about 15 minutes after the polls closed on Tuesday. Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Independent writes that voters in three Colorado school districts gave “the middle finger” to the Koch Brothers.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Why do Colorado Senate Republicans think it’s a good idea to attack Jeffco voters?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Control of the Colorado Senate swings in the balance next year, with the Democrats hoping to pick up one itsy bitsy state Senate seat and the Republicans clinging to a majority of one itsy bitsy Senate seat. And that seat is most likely in Jefferson County.

With this in mind, after last night’s uprising against conservatives in said Jefferson County, you’d think the Republicans’ official Senate Facebook page would speak in a humble tone, with an eye on the not-so-far-away-longer-term.

Instead, the Colorado Senate GOP lashed out at the Jeffco electorate, which, did I mention, will be voting again in just 12 months (or, about 364 days).

Here’s what the Colorado Senate GOP Facebook page had to say, in a statement that deserved wide coverage:

Parents not willing to support school reform get what they vote for — reform-resistant status quo schools run according to union shop rules. If that’s good enough for their kids, so be it. It’s the students, not the parents, who will live with the consequences.

Do Colorado Senate Republicans hope to hold their Jeffco swing districts with this attack line? Do they think attacking the Jeffco parents is a winning strategy for 2016?  It’s a legitimate question for reporters to put to Senate Republicans, given what they said today on Facebook.

Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee: Please Don’t Fire Me

THURSDAY UPDATE: As the Denver Post’s John Aguilar reports today, Jeffco school board victors are showing considerable magnanimity to Superintendent Dan McMinimee, at least for now and perhaps in part due to a hefty “golden parachute” worked into his contract signed with the outgoing board:

With the dust clearing on a tumultuous recall election in Jefferson County and a significant turnover on the Douglas County school board, newly elected leaders in both school districts spent Wednesday mapping out the future.

That included the future of Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee, whose compensation package was fuel for Tuesday’s successful recall effort. But the leader of the state’s second-largest school district won’t be shown the door anytime soon.

“If he’s willing to take direction from the board and is capable of implementing its policy, I don’t think he has anything to worry about,” said Brad Rupert, an Arvada attorney who will take over the seat of ousted board member Julie Williams.

All we can say is, that’s pretty big of them.

—–

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

At 7:15PM last night, just after the election returns dumped in from Jefferson County showing victory for the recall campaign against the Jeffco school board majority, Superintendent Dan McMinimee, the highly controversial hire from conservative Douglas County that helped drive the recall campaign, sent out this contrite little message to school district employees:

With the polls now closed and the campaigns for our School Board concluded, I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts with you.

I want to begin by thanking you all for keeping student growth, both academically as well as socially and emotionally, the focus of your daily efforts. Having visited over 70 schools so far this school year, I can assure our various communities that our school leaders, teachers, and staff are all working diligently to improve our practices that support student learning. I want to especially thank our school leaders for ensuring that we maintained a neutral position on the election and campaigns during the past few months. I know that you were often challenged by well-meaning stakeholders wanting to use our schools and communication channels for their particular campaign issues. I appreciate your efforts to make our community members feel respected while educating them on our need, as a system, to remain neutral.

It is important for all of us, as Jeffco employees, to recognize that elections, by their nature, have winners and losers. Our school communities often have both sides of an election represented in their schools and classrooms. It is vital that we acknowledge this reality and continue to maintain a neutral position on the outcome of the election… [Pols emphasis]

While we are of course not aware of any decision that has yet been made about McMinimee’s future as Jeffco Schools superintendent, the circumstances of his controversial hire–as well as his conduct as superintendent, working in what was by all accounts close concert with the right-wing board majority that was recalled from office yesterday–make it a fairly safe bet that McMinimee will not be in his $280,000 job for very much longer. The simple fact is that this was not a close election, and McMinimee’s position as superintendent was one of the chief points of contention in the recall campaign.

Maybe if he hadn’t embarrassed the district by chumping the governor of Colorado? Maybe if he hadn’t hired that totally incompetent political hack communications director? Maybe if he hadn’t threatened teachers with retaliation if they didn’t stop their meddling protests? Maybe if he had tried, at least tried, to stand up against the bullying of students in school board meetings?

Time to polish up that resumé, Dan. We’d say it’s back to P.E. class for you.

Earth-Shaking Jeffco Recall Victory Confounds Local Media

Jeffco recall supporters celebrate last night.

Jeffco recall supporters celebrate last night.

To kick off our recap of 2015’s biggest election in Colorado, last night’s landslide recall of the right-wing majority on the Jefferson County school board, we’re skipping our feckless local media and going straight to the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss:

Voters in the Denver suburb of Jefferson County on Tuesday tossed out three conservative members in a recall vote that was marked by some $1 million in spending, including support for the incumbents from a Koch-backed organization. The school board earned national attention when the members in 2014 said the Advanced Placement U.S. History course was not patriotic enough and needed to be changed…

In Jefferson County, Julie Williams, Ken Witt and John Newkirk have been in office for two years. They won seats in 2013 on the five-member board and moved quickly to institute controversial school reforms, including a merit pay system for teachers and an educator evaluation system that used student test scores.

Public school activists charged that the three were part of a reform movement trying to privatize public education and started a recall effort that attracted national attention, including money from outside the state from partisans on both sides. Americans for Prosperity, the national organization founded by Charles and David Koch, contributed to the reformers, while unions supported their opponents. Some $1 million was believed to have been spent in the race, one of a few local elections around the country in which outside money played a role.

Jon Caldara.

Jon Caldara.

In the days leading up to the election in Jefferson County, conservative opponents of the recall led by activist firebrand Jon Caldara’s Independence Institute and national “astroturf” organizing group Americans for Prosperity pulled out all the proverbial stops in an attempt to re-energize the “Tea Party” electorate that had put this school board majority in power in 2013.

But it wasn’t just conservative groups: the local media showed distressing bias against the recall effort, both in editorial and “hard news” coverage. This bias was most evident in the continuous dismissal of the recall campaign as a “union effort” in supposedly objective news reports. High-visibility events like the “Boots on the Boulevard” protests along Wadsworth were ignored with no explanation. Then, just before Tuesday’s election, Denver’s highest-rated television news station 9NEWS apologized for a “Truth Test” of an anti-recall ad that conservative recall opponents didn’t like. The abject, debasing apology offered by Kyle Clark for that “Truth Test” simply doesn’t make sense given the difference of interpretation over Superintendent Dan McMinimee’s salary their supposed “error” boiled down to.

Because 9NEWS has a reputation for not being anyone’s squish, we’re quite curious to know who was able to ring their proverbial bell this way. It was out of character to say the least.

Today, there’s plenty of blame to go around for this lopsided defeat that the local press didn’t see coming: Caldara’s shameless exploitation of the children of school board members in campaign ads, including Julie Williams’ special-needs son, should be remembered as a ugly low point in our state’s political history that rightfully backfired. Overall, Caldara’s brash style of emotional manipulation and unapologetically devious tactics was powerfully repudiated in yesterday’s elections. AFP’s vaunted field operations came up totally empty. “Independent” local pundits the press relies on like Floyd Ciruli and Eric Sondermann revealed themselves as fundamentally clueless about the electorate on which they were pontificating.

As our state’s foremost bellwether suburban population center, what happened last night in Jefferson County is hugely prophetic for the direction of Colorado politics. Democrats have finally broken the curse of off-year elections going famously badly for them, and established critical momentum going into next year’s general election in a county whose voters can swing the entire state. Without a doubt, Democratic campaigns at every level of American politics are looking at these results and thinking big.

As for our local media? They can either tell the story of this new reality, or be left behind by it.