Lundberg Strikes Again: Pedophile Day Care, Anyone?

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

The Denver Post's Christopher Osher reports on the latest bill up for debate from hard-right Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg–and it's a doozy:

"We are licensing child care out of existence in far too many corners of the state," said Lundberg, who also is chairman of the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee, which will consider the legislation. "My alternative says there is an elegant solution to this bureaucratic problem, and it recognizes that smaller facilities are much better served when we stay out of the way and stop driving people out of business."

But child welfare advocates say Colorado's licensing program isn't driving providers out of business. They say costs for providers are minimal — between $63.50 to $154.50 for an initial application and criminal background checks per home. They also fear Lundberg's move could run afoul of recent federal legislation and jeopardize federal aid the state receives for child care vouchers that go to low-income parents who are working or enrolled in job training or school.
 
They believe the state's licensing program saves lives by setting uniform safety standards and requiring criminal background checks for providers and those living in their homes. [Pols emphasis] They also point out that licensed providers must take 16.5 hours of training before opening and must take an additional 15 hours annually to keep licenses current. Child care operators say the cost of all the courses is less than $150.

Given the low cost of compliance with the licensing requirements as they exist today, it's tough to argue that this is a major contributor to the high cost of child care in Colorado. On the other hand, the peace of mind of leaving one's children with a care provider who has passed a criminal background check in order to receive a child care license has a very high value indeed.

Once you accept that a $150 license and a modest bit of education is not meaningfully driving up the cost of child care, there really is no good reason for this proposal at all. To be honest, the reason to push this bill completely escapes us, because its stated justification is so easily disproven it calls the true motives for the bill into question. Is the point really to make it easier for criminals to run child care centers?

As silly as that sounds, Sen. Lundberg's response to the question honestly makes you wonder:

"Parents are the ones that need to know that they're the actual stopgap that protects children when they drop them off anywhere," Lundberg said. "They better make sure just who they are leaving their children with." [Pols emphasis]

And how are parents supposed to do that? Maybe with–wait for it–a background check? Like the one you have to pass to get a child care license? Even when you disagree with a legislative proposal, it's usually possible to see how the rationale behind said proposal could make some kind of sense to a reasonable person–maybe not you, but some number of people depending on their point of view.

But not this time. This is just an irredeemably bad idea–and for a Republican caucus that grandstanded mandatory sentences for sex offenders, and constantly represents itself as "tough on crime" at the expense of Democrats, the introduction of such a counterproductive bill makes no sense.

Have We Mentioned That Kent Lambert Doesn’t Like Immigrants?

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope on the Mexican border.

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope to “patrol” the Mexican border.

The Colorado Statesman's Marianne Goodland reports on a bill sponsored by Sen. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs that's more than meets the eye:

The new chair of the Joint Budget Committee has stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest with a bill that would radically change the mission and admission standards for Metropolitan State University of Denver. And it’s not a change that they sought.

Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 15-072, which would change Metro’s admissions standards from “modified open” to “moderately selective.”

The state has five standards for granting admissions to its public colleges and universities. Metro currently falls under “modified open,” which means any applicant age 20 or older can be admitted with a high school diploma or GED. Those under 20 must meet additional criteria. Metro is the only higher education institution in the state with modified open standards…

As of press time, Metro officials and Lambert had not yet met about the bill.

MetroStateLogoWeb-304

Kind of strange, don't you think? Why would Sen. Lambert introduce a bill making such a major change to the admissions criteria for one of the state's largest public colleges without even meeting with them?

That's simple enough–Metro State does not support the bill.

Metro spokesperson Cathy Lucas said that Metro was not looking to change to their admissions standards. Initial data from the university shows that about 1,200 students would be affected by the admissions change. That would include 432 students of color…

Metro State serves a key role in Colorado's range of public higher education offerings as what's known as a "college of opportunity"–a chance for returning adult and otherwise "nontraditional students" to obtain a full four-year college degree without the same high admission standards prevalent at most four-year schools. As a consequence, Metro State has a lower graduation rate than many other four-year schools, but that is considered acceptable in pursuit of the school's mission of making a full college education available to everyone.

So why would Lambert want to change Metro State's "college of opportunity" model? As we discussed last week, Lambert is one of the Colorado legislature's most strident anti-immigrant lawmakers. Lambert has taken "fact finding trips" to the Arizona border to meet with anti-immigration extremists like border militiaman Chris Simcox, and ex-Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce of SB-1070 infamy. Metro State was a major advocate of the ASSET legislation passed in 2013 allowing undocumented students who graduate from Colorado high schools to attend college with affordable tuition, and the largest share of ASSET students are students of Metro State. As you can imagine, this did not make Lambert a very happy anti-immigrant lawmaker.

And basically, Kent Lambert is now looking to screw with Metro State. It's important to know this backstory, lest anyone think Lambert's bill is some kind of altruistic pursuit of better educational standards. Be assured, its not.

Senate GOP Kills College Tuition Cap Bill

Student life.

Student life.

Via AP and the Fort Collins Coloradoan, a priority from Gov. John Hickenlooper's State of the State address dies at the hands of the GOP-controlled Senate Education Committee:

The Senate Education Committee considered a Democratic bill to extend the current 6 percent hike cap indefinitely. The proposal was part of the Democrats' broader agenda this year to rein in costs for the middle class.

For some students at Colorado State University on Thursday, the proposal sounded like a sound idea.

"Making sure (tuition hikes aren't) ludicrous, like a 20 percent jump? I'm for that," junior health and exercise science major Philip Ephraim said.

The 2011-12 school year saw a 20 percent jump for in-state students over the previous year. Tuition had increased by 9 percent annually for the years before and after that year, according to CSU. The Legislature passed the tuition cap last year, but it was not permanent…

Laura Waters Woods.

Laura Waters Woods.

Of course, the 6% tuition cap bill that died yesterday was only "permanent" for as long as the General Assembly wanted it to be. Any such statute can be changed at any time. But in Hickenlooper's State of the State address, he called for tuition at Colorado state schools to increase by no more than 6%, in an effort to control the growth in the cost of higher education. Which, if you haven't heard, has been a big problem in recent years (see above).

But by fewer than 700 votes in suburban Arvada, Republicans are in charge of the Colorado Senate. Sen. Laura Waters Woods and her hard-right colleagues on the Senate Education Committee are expected to be a major roadblock on education issues for the next two years, and yesterday's action lived up to the predictions.

On Thursday, Education Committee members agreed that Colorado has done a poor job of funding higher education, but the GOP-controlled board voted 5-4 on party lines to reject the measure.

Republicans on the committee pointed out that even the 6 percent cap could mean tuition would double in a couple of decades. They called the cap an arbitrary limit on the institutions and an example of "micromanaging" the schools…

It's called gridlock, folks, and it's what's on tap in the Colorado Senate through 2016. The only thing we can tell you, and the student body of Colorado State University, is everybody had better get used to it.

And elections matter. We'll say that again too.

Jeffco Residents Demand School Board Majority’s Resignation

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Gabrielle Porter of the Canyon Courier reports:

A petition signed by 6,554 Jeffco residents calling for school board President Ken Witt and board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams to resign caused a stir at the board’s meeting on Thursday evening.

Jeffco parent and petition organizer Molly Snyder told board members she is not affiliated with the teachers union, the Jefferson County Education Association. 

When Snyder presented the box of petitions during the meeting’s public comment segment, she alleged that the board’s conservative majority had broken public trust, wasted district money, violated the state’s open-meetings law, and misrepresented district schools and students in public discussions.

After last year's explosive battle over the conservative Jefferson County school board majority's politically stilted "review" of the district's AP history curriculum, there's been a bit of a lull in the action as the students, parents, and teachers involved regrouped. We've heard that, among other things, the photo taken by the Jefferson County Education Association's spokesman of board president Ken Witt with a group of fellow right wing school board presidents we posted last week has helped fire up the opposition again–a reminder that what is happening in Jefferson County is part of a larger agenda playing out in school districts across the state.

With that said, it will take more than a petition to dislodge Witt and fellow conservative board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams:

Newkirk said he would not step down until student achievement goals were met, and challenged Snyder to ask the petition signers to help meet those goals by volunteering in local schools. 

“When every child and every parent in Jefferson County has their first choice, whether it be in a school, charter school, option school, online school or otherwise — no more waiting lists — when there’s no achievement gap between our minority students and non-minority students, and, finally, when Jeffco becomes the nation’s leader in academic achievement, then I’ll step down, because my work here will be done,” Newkirk said. 

During his speech, nearly half the restive audience — largely made up of people in blue JCEA shirts — stood and turned their backs on the board podium.

What happens next? We don't know exactly–but everything we hear suggests that the conflict between the Jeffco school board's right-wing majority and the politically moderate community they serve is rapidly coming to a head. Stay tuned.

Right-Wing School Board Presidents Caught Talking Shop

A photo taken yesterday by Scott Kwasny, the communications director of the Jefferson County Education Association, captures–apparently by random chance–a lunch meeting between Jefferson County Board of Education President Ken Witt and the conservative presidents of several other school boards across the state at Lakewood's Jose O'Shea's Mexican restaurant:

wittboes

Ken Witt.

Ken Witt.

Witt is the guy hiding his face. We take Kwasny at his word on this, but you can also see Witt's blocky haircut poking out around his binder.

Kwasny identifies the other men in this picture as Kevin Larsen of Douglas County, Bob Kerrigan of the Thompson school district, Mark Clark of Adams 12 Five Star Schools, and Roger Good of Steamboat Springs–all conservative presidents of their respective school boards. According to Kwasny's Facebook post, the subject of discussion was teacher contracts.

To be clear, there's nothing illegal going on here, even though such a meeting raises obvious questions. These men all serve on different school boards, so they would not be subject to Colorado's open meetings law. The biggest problem with this photo is the optics–Ken Witt and the Jefferson County school board's conservative majority regularly insist that they are not coordinating ideological "Dougco-style" reforms to roll out in Jefferson County. He says so even after hiring the district's new superintendent out of Douglas County–but it's a matter of, you know, pretense.

Well folks, so much for that pretense.

Top 10 Stories of 2014: Unfinished Business in Jefferson County (#9)

The Taj.

The Taj.

Jefferson County, Colorado has long been considered a bellwether–for the state of Colorado, and increasingly as a place where national political trends can be seen in action contemporaneous to or before they take hold elsewhere. The result in Jefferson County has predicted the winner in Colorado statewide races for long enough that the rule of "as Jefferson County goes, so goes Colorado" has become axiomatic for politicos in this state.

This year, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner narrowly defied this rule, losing Jefferson County by under 1,000 votes but winning the election statewide. The reasons for this have more to do with dynamics across Colorado that hurt Democrats, a hardening of partisan battle lines that robbed Mark Udall of swing independent and moderate Republican votes other Democrats in recent elections have won over. Looking at Udall's performance compared to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who carried Jefferson County and the state by a much greater margin than Gardner, there's a case to be made that Udall's collapse in September and October was more attributable to Colorado voters rejecting him personally–or at least his campaign's heavy focus on abortion–than Democrats generally.

In Jefferson County, the 2014 elections took place against the backdrop of major unplanned controversy created by a new conservative school board majority. The 2013 election's big story in Colorado was the absolute slaughter at the polls of Amendment 66, an education tax increase. Amendment 66, in turn, turned out conservative voters all over the state, including in Jefferson County where three hard-right conservatives were elected by a landslide to form the new majority on the Jeffco's five-seat school board.

The new Jeffco school immediately set to work on a sweeping, highly politicized agenda of conservative reform proposals. After butting heads with the teacher's union over pay issues, the new board pushed through the hiring of a new superintendent from Douglas County–the same far-right dominated union-busting school district presently mired in court battles over their insistence funding religious schools that the new school board promised would not be their "model" for "reforming" Jefferson County Public Schools.

thursdayprotests

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

In September, the conflict in Jefferson County went national–in fact international–when word surfaced of a proposal from board member Julie Williams to review the district's AP history curriculum to ensure that it "promotes citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respects for authority and respect for individual rights, [does] not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," and presents "positive aspects of the United States and its heritage." Williams is the sister-in-law of Sen.-elect Tim Neville, one of the most conservative incoming (and former) members of the Colorado legislature. With the power of the new majority, some of the fringiest actors in Colorado politics stood ready to impose their wacky will on one of the state's highest-performing public school districts.

As anyone who followed this story knows, thousands of students from across Jefferson County stormed out of class in massive and well-organized demonstrations against Williams' curriculum review proposal. At one point, the protests stretched for 22 miles along Wadsworth Boulevard, Jeffco's busiest surface street. Ultimately a weakened version of the curriculum review proposal was approved by the board without Williams incendiary language, but still one that gives Williams' political allies lots of board-sanctioned ability to make trouble. In the meantime, students and teachers are talking about the daunting logistics of recalling the new board majority, with a newfound understanding of the threat they represent.

So what does this mean for politics in Colorado's "political bellwether" county? It means something, for sure–but the full impact of the battle over public education in Jefferson County was not felt in 2014. This is not to say that Democrats didn't do their damndest to link the antics of the new school board with Republican candidates on the ballot–we documented numerous examples of hard-hitting TV spots and mailers linking Julie Williams to Neville, Laura Waters Woods, Tony Sanchez, Larry Queen, and others. It's likely that those ads made a difference, even if Neville and Waters Woods still won their races. It's clear that the prospect of having these protests turned against Republican candidates in Jeffco frightened GOP strategists at any rate, who responded with mailers intending to co-opt the protesters' message that were so desperate and shameless they left jaws agape.

In the end, 2014 was a year when the midterm political background noise may have helped conceal the long-term damage being done to conservatives in Jefferson County. In the worst electoral climate for Democrats in Colorado in many elections, Democrats actually did pretty well, enough to where Jefferson County if anything looks like less of a bellwether this election. If one bets that 2016 will not be the perfect storm for Democrats that 2014 was, and we believe that's a good bet, then key Jeffco races in 2016, like Sen.-elect Waters Woods in SD-19, would seem to be very ripe for flipping back to Democratic control. As for those thousands of student protesters? Many of them will be voters by 2016, at least some helped along by Colorado's new law allowing 16 year olds to pre-register to vote. Whether or not the conservative school board majority can be recalled is one question–but we expect their actions to ripple negatively for Jeffco Republicans for years to come regardless.

Bottom line: the role of Jefferson County may grow to something more than a bellwether in the coming years. As the state's fourth largest county by population, this is an electorate with enough heft to swing elections in Colorado–and this year, it's a county that (albeit narrowly) bucked the trend. That's not the same thing as a bellwether exactly, but in 2016, Democrats may have reason to celebrate Jeffco's bluer trajectory.

East High Students Walk Out In Ferguson Protest

UPDATE #2: Four Denver Police officers were injured by a motorist suffering "medical issues" while they were escorting students from downtown Denver back to East High SchoolDenver Post:

The officers and the driver were transported to Denver Health. One officer in critical condition was taken into surgery, Police Chief Robert White said. Another officer had serious injuries. The two other officers were treated for "minor injuries," White said.

White added it is "not our best day."

Four mangled bicycles were seen on the north side of Colfax Avenue between High Street and Williams Street. A nurse on the scene was covered in blood, and a wide area was cordoned off by police.

—–

UPDATE: FOX 31:

The Denver Post reported about 1,000 students took part in the march.

As they marched, students chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Justice for Michael,” according to several accounts on Twitter.

After reaching Civic Center Park, the crowd moved toward downtown along the 16th Street Mall.  They mostly spread out and dispersed after that.

Around 11:30 a.m., the students regathered at Colfax and Broadway, where they held a 4 1/2-minute moment of silence, marking every hour Brown was in the street. The group then began a march back to the high school.

—–

Just getting word of this, apparently a huge crowd of students from Denver's East High School have walked out of class this morning, shutting down Colfax Avenue near the Colorado state capitol in protest over the shooting of African-American teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri:

We'll update with coverage once available–looks like a pretty big event.

People Testify to Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force

 "Our children should not be expected to be test subjects," said Angela Kirkpatrick, mother to a Greeley elementary school student. Greeley has allowed numerous oil and gas wells next to public schools, even while  COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) admits that there are "data gaps", and no long term health studies about the effects of breathing benzene and methane on children's health.

In Loveland, Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper's Oil and Gas Task Force heard public comments from noon until 8 pm. I took notes on the last hour and a half of the public comments. Around four hundred people packed the Meeker Building in the Ranch Events complex, to listen and to speak.

(Below, fracking rig located next to Greeley Weld School District 6 stadium in Greeley, CO)

Testimony that I heard ran about 2:1 for slowing oil and gas production until public health impacts are known, for stronger regulation and enforcement, and for  communities to control how much oil and gas production they will allow. The tradeoff in quality of life vs. the economic boom was a continuing theme. Many expressed concern about earthquakes in Weld County, probably caused by injection of fracking fluids under pressure. Audio links to public comment are here and here

Denver Post "Colorado oil, gas task force gets earful from elected officials" by Mark Jaffe

Durango Herald article, "Gas and Oil Task Force Looks at Local Control, "by Peter Marcus

Greeley Tribune article (behind paywall)

My notes on public comments:

"Privatizing the profits, socializing the costs" – Martin Lind

Maydean Worley: Northridge HS site in Greeley, with leaks near the school. At the proposed elementary school site, the drilling company was "stunned into silence" when residents requested an air quality monitor.

Nick Johnson: concerned member of Lafayette community. (which voted to ban fracking) " We understand that it's an economic boon – we also understand that it's a public health issue.We need to give more authority to our local communities."

What is being proposed is a land plan- set up land use standards before communities are built. – He's talking about how earthen berms were built to shield neighborhoods from noise and . (unknown speaker)

Rod Brueske – This commission, if they want to have legitimacy, needs to have a grand jury investigation of the COGCC, COGA, b/c of their interpretation of state regulations. These orgs have allowed reduced or no fines or fees for violations. They are acting with criminal negligence, and I highly recommend an investigation of this pattern of violations.

Jennifer ? – personal story about living next to holding tanks. I feel that I live in an industrial area now. Lights, sound, natural gas, open flames, truck traffic. Ugly, smelly, bright, noisy. Little info about long term exposure – I feel that my family are test subjects.

Shane Davis: I’m a miner. There are epic failures of the state and COGCC to abide by its mission . 40% of all spills in Weld County have already resulted in groundwater contamination. And contamination statewide.  You have to look at the failures to know what you have to do in order to keep them from happening again.  Please recuse yourselves because of a conflict of interest.

Mizraim Cordero: C3, representing business interests across the state. Mission is to keep state’s economy going. All industries, ag, construction, etc, not just oil/gas. Much discussion about local control. Regulating business on a municipal level results in unstable and inconsistent policies. “Patchwork of regulations”.

Chris Guttormsson

Property rights, mineral rights, etc. People don’t understand who actually owns the minerals. They don’t have control of surface. When you make recommendations, please consider helping public be better informed on this.

Dr. Judith Boyle I live in Highland Farms. I’m not against anyone’s right to develop their minerals. I am disturbed by the increased rampant drilling which seems to be happening without apparent forethought or a plan in place.  Regulations of oil and gas haven’t kept up with the technology. EX horizontal drilling.

Kristen Allen – homeowner in Windsor. Near proposed site with drilling within 500’ of people’s homes. Impact on their property values was negative per realtor’s appraisal when they wanted to sell.

Earl Pittman: – I’m Republican, pro-drilling. Brags about how low his gas mileage is.  I ask the task force to recommend local control. (cites long numbered rule). Great Western is the driller at issue. Colo State Dept of Health wants GW to move well site away from residents, but GW is ignoring it. It’s not a political issue, it’s a safety issue, and quality of life issue. They’ve lost our trust.

Robert Winkler: risk management consultant: I’m concerned about health and quality of life issues associated w oil and gas development.  We’ve voiced our concerns to local officials. They are unwilling to evaluate independent research data. Please recommend a comprehensive health impact assessment at the next legislative session.

Maggie Burns: sharing a story.  Grew up on Western slope. Economics does matter. There is a way to balance the interests of health and all the other concerns, but don’t forget that economics matters.

Andrew Browning: with Consumer Energy Alliance. We’re a national organization. We want to increase production of domestic energy, to promote jobs and increase energy security. Banning energy production not viable, not collaborative, bla bla.

Steven Olson: Loveland resident. Lot of rhetoric, movie Gasland was sensational, misleading. Loveland energy project, pro-development group. Technology has advanced to enable safe and responsible development.

Karen Dike: Retired RN from Loveland. Here on behalf of my grandchildren. Gov Hickenlooper, you are making those of us who live in Colorado into lab rats for the oil and gas industry. You are asking us to prove that breathing benzene, methane, et, are not harmful to our children. Your moral and ethical responsibility is to …..It is time to say enough to this industry.

Steve Juhan  My grandfather did a lot of mining and development. Long-ass bio, with no discernible point.  Oil and gas creates jobs. Thank you.

Michelle Smith –  I’m on the board of (two organizations) runs an organic farm. We are losing small farmers in CO. Our hay costs tripled.  Leasing our mineral costs 2X helped us pay for our hay. Better education on MOU is the answer. Property rights should be respected.

Michael Lozinski  Disgruntled homeowner in Firestone area. Noise level was unbearable. I support America being self-reliant, but we can’t do it being irresponsible. COGCC didn’t do anything to ENCANA. I’m a homeowner without any rights. Rules are not enforced. This favors big oil. Need to fix COGCC so they will enforce the rules.

Kaye Fissinger from Longmont. President of Our Health, Our Future. In reading the directive, B1 and B2 has made health and wildlife subservient to the interests of the oil and gas industry. This is a moral issue. A constitutional and statutory and regulatory error. Task force has an opportunity to correct these wrongs.  Can make regulations more stringent than those adopted by local government. Should be able to place moratoria as Longmont did.

Judith Blackburn –  Also from Longmont, a “ban promoter”. Current laws and precedents need to be challenged. Because its legal doesn’t mean that its right. It’s impossible to promote oil and gas and still protect the rights of workers and neighbors. Disingenuous ads from energy companies do not promote trust. Questions of inspection and enforcement aside, we are all in some sort of experiment here. No one knows the long term effects…….

David Quave  During the oil embargo, I learned how important it is to be energy independent. When I moved, I loved working my farm, living in nature, safe haven. I propose that we all work together for optimal pad placements, respect rights of surface and mineral rights owners.  I want to enjoy sitting on my porch.

John Clarke: Former Larimer County Commissioner, former Ft Collins —- No municipality has tools they need to properly regulate oil and gas. Costs to taxpayers would be high. Talks a lot, says little. Fracking is just like construction. Right…..

 Ken Stone:  I work for a local O&G production co. Story of his life. Without O&G production, this economy won’t hold up.

Angela Kirkpatrick parent of a Greeley elementary school student. COGCC agrees that there are “data gaps” which “warrant further study”. We know the effects of benzene. Children are more vulnerable. The effects of being exposed to multiple volatile compounds are still unknown. Our children should not be expected to be test subjects. It’s COGCC’s responsibility to prove to safe to the community. It is not the community’s responsibility to prove that it’s safe to the COGCC.

Tim Reams from Earth Guardians. We need to know what the fracking chemicals are. When there is demonstrated risk to health standards, shut the wells down. There is violation after violation, one company 70 different times. When the state is not doing its job, local communities have to have the private right of action. This guy got the most applause of anyone yet, prompting a stern “no applause” warning from the moderator.

I took video of the last half hour of testimony, and will add it to this diary as time permits.

The task force will continue meeting  today, Friday, November 21, until 12 pm. The task force is  expected to recommend legislation in the next legislative session.

The public made its wishes known. Overwhelmingly, people want public health and quality of life prioritized over oil and gas profits. We know that the task force members will listen, as they did just that for over twenty hours so far. But will they hear? And hearing, will they act to protect public health and the environment?

Will public concerns about health and quality of life have a greater impact on policy than energy dollars? That remains to be seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 State Senate Education Committee: Meet The Freak Show

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.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports on committee assignments announced yesterday by the incoming Colorado Senate GOP Majority:

Colorado Senate Republicans, who will be in charge for the next two years, have announced their committee chairs and members for the next two years.

The biggest surprise for Democrats might be the Senate Education Committee, where some of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans are assigned. In other words, this is not a teachers union friendly crowd.

That, folks, is an understatement. This may not be a crowd "friendly" to unions, teachers…or students?

Senate Education
Senator Owen Hill Chair
Senator Vicki Marble Vice Chair
Senator-elect Tim Neville
Senator-elect Chris Holbert
Senator-elect Laura Woods

Where to start? Owen Hill is a stridently conservative and ambitious legislator, and with Chris Holbert arguably the least gaffe-prone of the bunch. But with Laura Waters Woods, Tim Neville, hard-right brother-in-law of Jefferson County school board member Julie Williams, and especially Vicki "Where's The Mute Button" Marble rounding out the Republican majority on this committee, Senate Education just became the go-to venue for Democratic trackers looking for embarrassing clips. Neville and Woods, you'll recall, even sent out campaign mailers that doctored the signs of Jefferson County student protesters. Wouldn't it be smashing to have one of those students show up to testify before this committee?

Of course, the ability to actually carry out whatever their education agenda might be–like the GOP-controlled Senate generally–is attenuated by Democratic control of the House and Gov. John Hickenlooper. But the choices made by GOP leadership to staff this committee to do not bode well for "working with our Democratic colleagues to build a better Colorado," as GOP Majority Leader Mark Scheffel claimed in his release.

And that, again, may be an understatement.

Jeffco School Board Members Attend Meeting Co-Hosted By White Nationalist Hate Group?

UPDATE #3: We've just received word that the flyer from the Evergreen Tea Party shown below may have mistakenly listed the American Freedom Party as a sponsor of last Monday's meeting. There appears to be some confusion on this point, but it's possible that whoever made this flyer mistook the American Freedom Party for another conservative organization that goes by the acronym AFP: Americans for Prosperity.

This would be a fairly comedic error if true, and certainly not the fault of the parents alarmed by this flyer who sent it to us–but would also be, we think, objectively good news. We'll update once we can confirm this latest information.

—–

UPDATE #2: From a statement forwarded to us by Evergreen High School principal Ryan Alsup:

My goal for the evening was to brag about our school, and let the people know about the great education we currently provide. My address consisted of our data, the data that has made us one of the top ranked schools in the state and country. I am very proud of our students, and staff, and the relationship that we have developed with our immediate community. As a principal, I cannot discuss my own political affiliations, however, please know that I do not condone or support any anti-Semitic or racist views and organizations. It is my job to ensure that we provide a balanced education for all students. We work hard at Evergreen High School to ensure that our students understand the importance of inclusion, and have various student clubs and activities designed to celebrate diversity.

(more…)

2014’s “Swing Issue?” Public Education

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

We've all heard it before: "As goes Jefferson County, so goes Colorado." 

In an election year where national developments such as Ebola and ISIS have created more generalized voter angst than focused anger, Colorado's 2014 state legislative races seemed destined to enter the final stretch with no clear definition or rallying cry.

Meanwhile, in Jeffco – which has four targeted races that will ultimately determine which party will control the state Senate – the new school board majority that was elected last year was conducting itself in a way that created some concern among parents and teachers, but didn't set off particularly potent alarms outside the education community.

But, just as ballots were dropped off in mailboxes, the defining moment came: Julie Williams' proposal to sanitize AP US history. Once she tipped the board majority's hand, the deep concerns among parents about what the Jeffco School board might be planning turned into a nationally broadcast, student-protest-fueled, laser-focused rejection of what the majority was proposing. 

That's how defining issues are born. Jeffco voters who currently have no way to take direct electoral action against the board majority are looking for ways to make their voices heard. They're asking about it when candidates come to the door and, judging from a spate of new video ads from the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund, Senator Andy Kerr, Senator Rachel Zenzinger, Citizens Alliance for Accountable Leadership, and Great Education Colorado Independent Expenditure Committee, supporting public education must be polling pretty well.

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New Ads Slam Jeffco Republicans Over School Board Antics

Hard shots continue against Jefferson County Republican candidates tied to the controversy surrounding the new conservative school board majority. Check out new ads ad targeting SD-19 GOP candidate Laura Waters Woods (above) and SD-16's Tim Neville (below). Neville, as we've discussed, is the brother-in-law of lightning-rod Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

The Huffington Post's Samantha Lachman published a great story yesterday evening on the potential effects of the school board's recent history review drama on the upcoming elections. The school board majority is not on the ballot this year, but many Republicans demonstrably tied to Williams and the school board are. The protests against the majority's history review proposal are arguably the highest-visibility grassroots actions in Jeffco in years, uniting citizens with a variety of political views against the common enemy of ideological censorship. And as we've been opining for some weeks, the Jeffco school board's ideological flight of fancy could be the game-changer of 2014 in Colorado's foremost bellwether county.

"For the first time in my life, I will probably vote a straight Democratic ticket." [Pols emphasis]

That realization came as something of a surprise to non-practicing attorney Wendy McCord, who has always thought of herself as a Republican. The mother of two children in Jefferson County's public school system, McCord told The Huffington Post that she has been politically transformed by the actions of the new conservative majority on the county school board, which presides over the state's second-largest school district.

Here in Jefferson County, a bellwether battleground that is almost evenly split between Republicans, Democrats and independents, a local educational controversy is resonating with county voters who otherwise might not have been engaged in this year's elections. Frustrated Republicans like McCord could be the deciding votes in Colorado's gubernatorial race, in which Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) faces a strong challenge from former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R), as well as its Senate race, in which Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is in danger of being unseated by Republican challenger Rep. Cory Gardner…

The school board controversy is especially relevant given the pivotal role Jefferson County plays in statewide elections. An informal saying here is "As Jeffco goes, so goes Colorado," referencing the fact that the county, which encompasses the suburbs west of Denver, has voted with the winners in U.S. Senate races since 1992 and gubernatorial contests since 1978. [Pols emphasis]

The story quotes Democratic Sen. Andy Kerr, himself fighting off Julie Williams-endorsed Tony Sanchez in SD-22 (new ad in that race follows after the jump) saying that the actions of the new Jefferson County school board majority are at the top of Jeffco voters' minds as he walks neighborhoods. That's consistent with what we're hearing in terms of polling results–which is driving the ads you see here hammering away at Jefferson County Republicans tied to Williams. It does appear Jefferson County voters understand that the controversy at the school board has partisan Republican origins.

Michael Clark, a registered independent who was educated in Jefferson County, suggested that the school board issue could impact November's statewide races if voters take their frustrations out on candidates who are politically aligned with the conservative board members. (No recall election has been initiated for the board itself.) For instance, Beauprez said in an interview earlier this month that the student protesters were being manipulated by their teachers.

"A lot of people were put off by his comments," Clark told HuffPost.

Bottom line: if the anecdotes in this story manifest on Election Night as votes, Julie Williams could play a bigger role in the 2014 elections than anyone who supported her election to this school board ever imagined. The decision to plunge headlong into a radical agenda of "reform" by this board, in a politically moderate and divided place like Jefferson County, could go down in history as a cardinal error; the step too far that provokes a blowback much bigger than anything a school board can achieve would ever be worth.

For Republicans in and outside Jefferson County, we're talking major disaster.

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What is Proposition 104?

*Colorado Pols is profiling ballot measures that will appear on the 2014 Colorado statewide ballot. See also:
What is Amendment 67 in Colorado?
What is Amendment 68 in Colorado?
What is Proposition 104 in Colorado?
What is Proposition 105 in Colorado?
 


Proposition 104 (Colorado)
OFFICIAL TITLE: School Board Open Meetings
ALSO KNOWN AS: "Proposition 104"…There is Very Little Buzz Either Way Here

 

Official Ballot Language for Proposition 104:
"Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes requiring any meeting of a board of education, or any meeting between any representative of a school district and any representative of employees, at which a collective bargaining agreement is discussed to be open to the public?”

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Jefferson County: The Key to the State, Now More Than Ever

Jefferson County key to Colorado elections

This kid can’t vote. But his parents, relatives, and neighbors have a new reason to get involved.

We've seen plenty of stories both locally and nationally about the continuing controversy with the Jefferson County School Board — a controversy that will almost certainly impact the outcome of several key races in November, as we pointed out early and often.

Today the Denver Post takes a deeper look — on the front page of the paper, no less — into the political consequences of a right-wing school board angering a community that is always paying attention to education issues. As John Frank writes for the Post, the crossover into the 2014 election is impossible to ignore:

It's dark and a moth circles the halo of a porch light as state lawmaker Brittany Pettersen knocks on the door of a potential swing voter in this all-important Denver suburb. Hours of canvassing ended at the home of Brian Leffler, a 36-year-old independent voter. Pettersen, a first-term Democratic House member, asks him what issue is foremost in his mind this election year. A chorus of insects fills the silence as Leffler thinks. It doesn't take him more than a moment to name a top issue. "The whole schools thing going on in Jefferson County — that's the main thing right now," Leffler said. "I know that has very little to do with you, but they are talking about taking things out of the curriculum."

Door after door, the same refrain. The turmoil at the Jefferson County school board regarding the conservative majority's plans to revamp teacher pay and curriculum is emerging as a key issue in the November elections.

"The fact it comes up naturally in conversations is really reflective of what's happening," Pettersen said. [Pols emphasis]

In an election season with no single national issue dominating the conversation, Jefferson County's vote is a volatile political cocktail that proves all politics is local.

Education. The Democratic Party enthusiasm gap. Abortion. Marijuana. The Republican Party rift. Guns. The economy.

And the stakes couldn't get much higher: The county is likely to decide which party controls the state Senate, the governor's mansion and the U.S. Senate, a combination with far-reaching implications in Colorado and Washington.

Both Democrats and Republicans have figured out that the 2014 elections may hinge on the actions of Jeffco's screwy school board, though Democrats were much quicker to respond. Republicans have tried to push back with a ridiculous message accusing the teacher's union of, well, everything, but that attempted pivot isn't going to work in a county where students, parents, and teachers have taken to the streets in protest for more than a month now. As Frank astutely points out in his story above, this is an issue that is moving along under its own power — which is going to make it awfully difficult for Republicans to redirect as ballots start landing in mailboxes this week.

 

Is Bob Beauprez TRYING to Lose Jefferson County?

UPDATE: Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio responds:

"Congressman Beauprez has picked sides in the Jefferson County education fight. Not surprisingly, he chose the tea party school board members over parents, teachers and students. Asking our students to wait until the next election to be taught America's rich and incredible history is out-of-touch. To best prepare our children to be our nation's next generation of leaders, they should be armed with the facts, not just the limited and ideological agenda of the tea party extremes."

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Another bad answer from Bob BeauprezThe Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce is currently hosting a debate between Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. Politico reporter Manu Raju is moderating the discussion, which you can follow at Politico.com/LIVE or via Twitter under the hashtag #copolitics.

Just a few moments ago, Raju asked a question about the controversy surrounding the Jefferson County School Board, and Beauprez is apparently convinced that it is a smart idea to be critical of the thousands of students, teachers, and parents who have been protesting a proposal to change the curriculum for certain history classrooms. Last week, Beauprez said in a radio interview that teachers are "manipulating" students to walk out of class and join the protests — a comment that echoed Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee and the right-wing School Board. When given another chance to give a different answer to a similar question…Beauprez doubled-down instead.

Here's how Beauprez's answer sounded from the Twitter feed of Fox 31's Eli Stokols (image at right): "We've lost precious instruction time because of the protests…elected school board has obligation to look at [curriculum].

We can't even begin to speculate as to why Beauprez and his campaign team think this is smart approach to answering a question about a subject that has made national headlines for more than two weeks. As we all know, Jefferson County is THE bellweather county in Colorado, and it is essentially impossible to win a statewide race if you don't win in Jeffco. It is also considerably harder to win in Jeffco when your basic response is no more detailed than, Go back to class!

From a political standpoint, this isn't a difficult question to answer correctly. Just take a look at how Gov. HIckenlooper answered to see what Beauprez should have done instead.