Taggert Hansen and DFER – Puppets to Wal-Mart’s Campaign to Privatize Public Education and Bust Unions

It seems that ColoradoPols is consistently lacking real background behind education reform unless it is affecting the the typical D vs. R. dynamic. So I figured I would try out a post. In Denver Public Schools and urban districts around the country, there is effectively no two-party system. What we have is a low turnout primary process to elect who will walk into the office in the fall and very contentious school board elections.

What is now consistent, is that office holders who are affiliated Democrats are becoming more and more willing to turn over public funds to privately managed Charter Management Organizations, fire and displace teachers who have been rated as effective, ignore the requests of parents and community members, and bust teachers unions. Why is this happening? They want to get elected, and they don't have the real information.

Well, in order to get elected, money helps a whole lot. The folks who are attacking public education have a whole lot of it. Think of all of the Democrats for Education Reform (DEFRs) in Colorado and the country who fit this mold:

  • Senator Michael Bennet
  • State Senator Michael Johnston
  • Former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor, Michelle Rhee
  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Immanuel
  • DPS Board of Education, Happy Haynes, Barbara O'Brien, Anne Rowe, Rosemary Rodriguez, Michael Johnson, and Landri Taylor. 
  • Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan

Wow! This is a pretty powerful group. It must be that they really know what is best for education. Or maybe that they have tons of secret money coming from billionaires, right wingers, and Wall Street/hedge fund managers. If you look at their policies, they are all that different from George W. Bush, Chris Christie, and other big name Republicans. Let's meet the newest person who is supported by this big money in the current Democratic primary for the State Board of Education District 1, Taggert Hansen. 

Taggert Hansen

Taggert Hansen

Bio from his website:

"After college, I taught sixth grade as a public school teacher in the second largest district in California. As a teacher (of two years through Teach For America – added by writer), I learned the importance of creating a community of shared vision for educating children and empowering them to learn, and the importance of partnerships between teachers, parents and administrators.  I learned that some of my “trouble students” were in fact some of the brightest in the class with enormous potential – it’s just that no one had looked beyond the label and encouraged them to excel and dream of achieving greatness."  Citation: http://tagghansen.nationbuilder.com/


Valentina Flores, Ph.D

Valentina Flores, Ph.D.

"First and foremost, I am an educator who has worked in education for 43 years.  With a background as a public school teacher, an education policy analyst, a curriculum development and implementation professional, and professor at several universities, I am uniquely qualified to bring my 43 years of experience to the Colorado State Board of Education." Citation:  http://valflores.com/val/

It may seem that a 41 year educator and Latina might be a more obvious choice for the position, but WAIT . . . . . there's more in her website bio.

"I oppose big money and corporatization in our public education system.  I oppose high stakes testing that takes away valuable classroom learning time.  I opcpose a “reform” model that is slowly privatizing our public education system.  We cannot allow free public education to be traded on NASDAQ and sold to the highest bidder." 


Ah ha! 

Is that why outside money is coming in to buy the State Board of Education race just like the DPS, JeffCo and DougCo school board races? Check this out. Suddenly a new 501 (c)4 organization called Raising Colorado shows up dropping mail for Taggert Hansen. Where did this come from? It was opened by Jennifer Walmer, DFER CO Director and former DPS Chief of Staff, and is funded by Education Reform Now, the (c)3 charitable non-profit from New York, that is funded by the Walmart Foundation (Walton Family Foundation – http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/about/2013-grant-report​). So that's the soft side. 



What about Taggert's direct campaign donors? (Source - http://tracer.sos.colorado.gov/PublicSite/SearchPages/FilingDetail.aspx?FilingID=174825​)  Here are a couple:

  • Stand for Children (opposed Senators Andy Kerr and Evie Hudak and Representatives Kagan and Pettersen in 2012) in support of Republicans who oppose school funding and support union busting. They are at it again. Check out their endorsements including anti-tax right wingers – http://stand.org/colorado/2014-education-champions.  Also support by the Walton Family Foundation - http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/2012-education-reform-grants-by-investment-region.
  • Leadership for Education Equity - A D.C. based non-profit with a board that includes Matt Kramer, President of Teach for America (Funded by Walton – http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/grantees/teach-for-america) and Arthur Rock (Hedge fund manager who played heavily in DPS school board in 2013).​

It is hard to explain how far Walmart's reach has gone since with the advent of Citizens United and the abuse of the non-profit system to hide their money. No questions about it, it is time for the Democratic base to decide what being a Democrat means.



Why Is Conservative Jeffco School Board Spending So Much Money?

Dan McMinimee

There’s nothing small about the contact for new Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Parents and educators across Jefferson County have been in an uproar since a conservative takeover of the School Board last fall resulted in an immediate run of questionable decisions and overspending. Board President Ken Witt and conservative members John Newkirk and Julie Williams have been making backroom deals and approving unnecessary expenditures since before their first official meeting in December 2013.

The controversy created by the conservative Board escalated this Spring when Dan McMinimee, an assistant superintendent at Douglas County Schools, inexplicably emerged as the only finalist from a "nationwide" search that cost taxpayers $40,000. The alarming lack of transparency spooked Jeffco parents and teachers, and that questionable decision making by the Board only got worse from their. As the Denver Post reports, the Board approved an unexplainably-high salary for McMinimee last night (on a 3-2 vote) before giving a final stamp of approval for their hand-picked Superintendent:

Jefferson County School board members voted after a contentious debate late Thursday night to approve a contract that, with benefits, makes incoming Superintendent Dan McMinimee one of the highest-paid school leaders in Colorado.

The state's second-largest school district would pay McMinimee an annual base salary of $220,000, offer him up to $40,000 in performance pay and reimburse him up to $20,000 for his personal contributions toward retirement benefits.

A previous draft of the contract would have given McMinimee a $280,000 base salary but not provide performance pay or reimbursements for retirement benefits…

McMinimee, an assistant superintendent in the Douglas County School District, was hired in May by a split board vote. Board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman voted against his selection.

On Thursday, community members called for a contract with a salary that more closely resembles that of the district's past leader, Cindy Stevenson, who made $205,500 a year. Others asked the school board to revisit the superintendent search and bring in more finalists.

It is important to understand just how odd McMinimee's contract looks in comparison to that of former Superintendent Cindy Stevenson, who not only had substantially more experience but also held a PhD in Education (McMinimee has a Masters degree). It's not like the Board was negotiating from a position of weakness, either; if you are going to hire someone with fewer qualifications than the previous Superintendent, shouldn't you at least save a little money in the process?

Battle Over New Jeffco Schools Superintendent Escalates

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Denver Post reports today, Douglas County's Dan McMinimee hired by the new conservative Jefferson County school board majority on a split 3-2 vote:

A badly divided Jefferson County Schools board on Tuesday night hired Daniel McMinimee as the next superintendent of the state's second-largest school district, as audience members howled in protest and hurled catcalls toward the dais.

The 3-2 vote to hire McMinimee, who serves as an assistant superintendent with the Douglas County School District, was preceded by loud interruptions from a crowd of several hundred. At one point, a large portion of the room stood up and began chanting "stand up for kids" and a woman was led out of the room by security workers after she spoke out of turn…

Things got off to a bumpy start Tuesday evening, with board members Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper pleading with the majority — the three conservative members elected as a slate in November — to allow more than 45 minutes for public comment.

"We need to hear from our community before we vote," Fellman said to loud applause.

But a motion to lengthen the public comment period failed on a 3-2 vote.


UPDATE: A letter from the Jefferson County PTA calls out newly elected board member Julie Williams:

The school board, as you know, is supposed to be non-partisan.  Board Policy GP-07 states:  Board members should represent the interests of the citizens of the school district. This accountability to the whole district supersedes any conflicting loyalty to other advocacy interest groups, or citizens of a director district and membership on other boards or staffs.

It also says:  Any member of the Board of Education may speak to the press, write articles or in other ways communicate with citizens.  Board members must identify any personal opinions as such and may not state personal opinions as if they are positions of the Board of Education…

In addition to being blatantly partisan, Williams' post is offensive on many levels. It shows an unconcealed disrespect of and disregard for the general public that she was elected to serve…   
As publicly elected officials of the Jeffco Board of Education, you are expected to make decisions with input from all stakeholders.  To ignore state laws, school board policies, and public outcry in order to impose an agenda or simply do what you please is abuse of power.


Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

​This evening, the raging controversy over the agenda of the new Jefferson County Board of Education's conservative majority again takes center stage with a meeting to consider the sole finalist for the district superintendent position, Douglas County Schools assistant superintendent Dan McMinimee. McMinimee is up for the job after the resignation of the previous Jeffco Schools superintendent Cindy Stevenson, who quit citing an inability to work with the new majority.

As the Denver Post's John Aguilar reports, McMinimee is just the latest sign that the new right-wing majority is pushing Colorado's second-largest school district in an unwelcome direction:

Many teachers and parents eye [McMinimee] with suspicion, afraid that he might bring to Jeffco some of the controversial reforms that have taken root in the last few years under a decidedly right-leaning Douglas County school board.

"It sure looks like it's becoming Douglas County," said Erin Murphy, a teacher at Alameda International High School in Lakewood, who wonders if McMinimee is simply coming to Jefferson County to do the bidding of the school board's new conservative majority…

Courtney Smith, president of the Douglas County Federation, said McMinimee lost his way as the makeup of the board changed. She sat across the table from him during the ill-fated teacher contract negotiations of 2012, during which she said McMinimee didn't advocate sufficiently for teachers in front of the board.

"At one point, he was a principal in the district. He saw firsthand how incredible the work was that was being done with teachers and the district," Smith said. "And then to take part in the top-down initiatives that have harmed Douglas County. He was a part of that."

The new Jefferson County Board of Education majority was elected last year in the same election that saw the overwhelming defeat of Amendment 66–the ill-fated education tax hike proposal whose poor marketing helped far-right school board candidates on the same ballot. The new board members lack experience in education either as teachers or administrators, and since election last November have routinely stoked controversy with an avowedly radical "reform" agenda along the lines of Douglas County to the southeast.

The most partisan political and vocal member of the new board majority is Julie Williams. Williams is the sister-in-law of former Colorado Sen. Tim Neville, which in turn connects Williams with the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the broader hard-right wing of Colorado GOP politics. Last week, Williams posted to her Facebook wall about tonight's meeting with McMinimee, with a over-the-top call to action:


Jeffco board to hear limited public comment before vote on superintendent finalist

Jeffco board to hear limited public comment before vote on superintendent finalist (via Chalkbeat Colorado)


The Jefferson County community will have 45 minutes to share their feelings on Dan McMinimee, the sole finalist for the open superintendent position, before the district’s Board of Education takes a final vote on the matter next Tuesday, Chalkbeat…



Study Shows Colorado Schools Fail Those From Poorly-educated Backgrounds

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A new study from Harvard takes a look at the math and science scores of various states and compares them to those of other countries. It also breaks down the results by the educational background of school childrens' parents. And what it says about Colorado is what we've all known for a while: that Colorado doesn't do well by its disadvantaged children.

Overall, Colorado does pretty well. We're between Ireland and New Zealand in overall Math proficiency (with Ireland ranked 14th and New Zealand ranked 15th among countries), and we're 7th place among the states. (The USA comes in overall at 27th place.)

However, when children are separated by the level of education of their parents and those from the least educated backgrounds are evaluated, Colorado drops significantly to 33rd among the states, between the Czech Republic and Greece (28th – 29th among the 34 OECD states participating in comparative testing). (The USA rises to 20th place in comparison).

The trend continues looking at those of moderate education (Colorado is in 10th place among the states) and high levels of education (where Colorado ranks 4th among the states).


As I said, this is what we've known for a long time: Colorado's disadvantaged students – often those in rural areas and those in poverty in the cities – are not given the same advantages that those in well off areas with high concentrations of educated people. This is the root of the Lobato lawsuit and our state's current education funding crisis – that the state's funding formula places exceptional and disproportionate burdens on those children in less well off areas.

Jeffco Parents Push for Answers in Superintendent “Search”

As John Aguilar of the Denver Post reports:

Dozens of community members are demanding to know contract details for the next Jefferson County Schools superintendent before the board convenes for a special meeting Tuesday to decide whether to hire Daniel McMinimee to helm the 85,000-student school district.

In a cascade of e-mails sent to school board members and others this week, parents and teachers are requesting that they not only get to see a draft of the contract but get the chance to speak publicly at next week's meeting.

Concern has been growing in Jefferson County since a Republican takeover of the School Board last fall that began with a series of open meetings violations and unexplained expenditures. Parents and community members have grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of transparency, particularly with the recent announcement that McMinimee, an assistant superintendent in Douglas County, was the only finalist for the vacant superintendent position despite paying out $40,000 for a firm to conduct a "national search." Board President Ken Witt has made little effort to pretend to listen to the community, and some of the decisions he championed in December are fueling anxiety with McMinimee's pending hire:

Board member Lesley Dahlkemper started the e-mail chain late Monday by saying she did not want to vote on a contract "without seeing it first." That's what happened in December, she said, when the board's conservative majority — made up of Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams — approved hiring Colorado Springs-based Miller Sparks LLC as the board's legal counsel...

Dahlkemper also said it is critical that the community get a chance to address the board formally about McMinimee and the details of his contract. The position is advertised as paying $280,000 a year.

That's right, folks. The Jeffco School Board came up with ONE finalist for a position that pays $280,000 a year. Sure thing.

Sen. Michael Johnston Stirs Controversy At Harvard

UPDATE: Sen. Michael Johnston responds magnanimously via Facebook:

I was honored to be invited as the convocation speaker at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and I am even more excited to keep that commitment. In this moment, perhaps more than ever before, American education needs to foster open dialogue between people who share values but differ on strategies, and my speech will focus on our efforts to find that common ground. I have always found I learn the most from those who disagree with me, and because learning is more about listening than talking, I have also asked Harvard to setup an additional space and time for open dialogue so that I can hear from and learn from students on all sides of the issues. That spirited back and forth was what I loved about Harvard, and is one more reason that I am eager to return.


Sen. Michael Johnston (D).

Sen. Michael Johnston (D).

Bloomberg's Dan Hart reports via the Denver Post:

Students, faculty and alumni of Harvard's Graduate School of Education are protesting the school's choice of a Colorado lawmaker as commencement speaker because of his stance on education reform that relies on so-called test-based accountability.

State Sen. Michael Johnston, a Democrat representing northeast Denver, was chosen last month by Dean James Ryan to speak. The school is being asked to rescind Johnston's invitation and to create a more transparent and inclusive process for choosing future commencement speakers…

The Washington Post explains what has students and alumni at the Harvard Graduate School of Education so upset with Sen. Michael Johnston:

Johnston, a former Teach For America corps member in Mississippi and a high school principal in Colorado, received a masters degree in education at the graduate school and was a co-founder of the reform organization New Leaders for New Schools.  He became an informal education adviser to then-Sen. Barack Obama during the 2008 election campaign.

As a state senator in Colorado, Johnston has pushed legislation to promote corporate school reform and was behind a 2010 law mandating that 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation come from student standardized test scores (through a method known as the value-added method] that has been sharply criticized by assessment experts…

From the statement signed by students and alumni opposing Sen. Johnston:


Photos: Jeffco Teachers, Students “Occupy Wadsworth”

jeffcokid1Photo via Twitter

FOX 31 reported Friday evening, as controversy over the radical agenda of the new conservative Jefferson County Board of Education continues to grow:

Teachers, parents and students lined several intersections along Wadsworth Boulevard, to show support for Jefferson County teachers and students, while also voicing frustration with the conservative, 3-2 school board majority.

“There is miscommunication happening and there is not transparency,” said Sarah Freza, a Jeffco parent and middle school teacher.

Many said there was not transparency when negotiations with teachers stalled, the long-time superintendent resigned, and a nationwide search for a replacement led to one finalist.


This is part of a effort called "Boots on the Boulevard" where protesters stand at major intersections along Wadsworth from 104th Avenue on the north end to Chatfield Avenue on the south end. They are upset with recently elected board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams who make up the majority.

"Right now, we feel very kicked to the side," [teacher Sarah] Jenkins said.

She is worried about teacher pay and respect for teachers. Protesters have also have concerns that Witt, Newkirk, and Williams have made cuts to full day kindergarten while adding funds to charter schools…

Protesters are also upset with the selection of a solo finalist for superintendent, Dan McMinimee, who is the current assistant superintendent of Douglas County. In Douglas County, a conservative controlled school board [has] launched a series of school reforms including a market-based pay for performance program for teachers and an effort to launch school vouchers.

For those not familiar with the local geography, Wadsworth Boulevard is the principal north-south artery of suburban Jefferson County, running directly through the county's heavily populated cities of Westminster, Arvada, Wheat Ridge, Lakewood, and Littleton. From our observation, the "Boots on the Boulevard" demonstration involved literally hundreds of teachers, parents, and students, at major intersections running the whole length of Wadsworth in the middle of rush hour. The level of visibility Jeffco teachers achieved Friday afternoon is greater than just about any earned media coverage could ever net them. It's reasonable to assume that much of the voting public in Jefferson County is unaware something controversial is happening with their new school board, or even that there is a new school board.

A whole lot of voters got the message Friday afternoon. More photos after the jump.


Jeffco School Board About As Transparent as Mud

The Jefferson County School Board has been in a bit of upheaval since three hard-right Republicans were elected last fall. The new board, led by President Ken Witt, began breaking laws and writing out big checks from their first day on the job. Witt and friends have even made it a point to avoid answering media questions.

Dan McMinimee

Dan McMinimee. His last name will be on spelling tests.

So it was no surprise to hear that, by a 3-2 vote last weekend, the Republicans on the school board rammed through a single candidate to become the next Jefferson County Schools Superintendent. Not a narrow list of candidates. Not even two candidates. Just Dan McMinimee. The board paid a recruiting firm $40,000 to conduct a nationwide search, and — SURPRISE!!! — the Republicans on the board chose an assistant superintendent from Douglas County (which has been the centerpiece of a battle to promote vouchers even while the district was performing well). As John Aguilar wrote earlier this week for the Denver Post:

"I was very disappointed to hear this decision," said Jonna Levine, a parent of a former student still active in school organizations and activities. "I was hoping we would find somebody from someplace other than Douglas County. But I think it's the direction where this board has been headed all along."

The long-time hallmark of Jeffco education, Levine said, was strong collaboration among administration, teachers, parents and the community. She said this new board has been less collaborative and transparent.

McMinimee said Saturday night that over the next two weeks he'll be meeting with several Jefferson County groups.

"I hope they ask the tough questions," McMinimee said. [Pols emphasis] "I'm excited to work with the parents, teachers, staff and community to continue the great work they've been doing and to build on that."

Well, that leads us nicely into another Aguilar story updated this morning. As the Denver Post reports:

Jefferson County Schools superintendent finalist Dan McMinimee faced a decidedly tough crowd Thursday, as dozens of people came to an open house at Wheat Ridge High School to set eyes for the first time on the man who more than likely will take the reins of the state's second-largest school district.

Parents and teachers in this deeply divided district challenged McMinimee, who on Saturday was named by the board as the sole contender for the superintendent post, on a number of topics ranging from charter schools to teacher pay to community unity…

…Things got off to a rough start at the meet and greet when McMinimee announced that he would take questions on a one-on-one basis only, prompting some in the crowd to ask how that bolstered transparency. He later sat down at a table and answered questions in front of everyone. [Pols emphasis]

Yes, we would imagine things would get off to a rough start if you begin a meeting with people already skeptical of your position by declaring your desire to be less accessible from the first question. This is a terrible way for Dan McMinimee to make his introduction to Jefferson County teachers and parents. We've no doubt that McMinimee was likely encouraged by certain board members to be as elusive as possible, but even if he wasn't — this stunt makes it look like he's just a puppet of the right-wing school board. If that indeed proves to be the case, McMinimee will likely have a job only as long as the makeup of the school board remains the same.


Sen. Hodge Criticized For Native American “Reparations” Remarks

Sen. Mary Hodge (D).

Sen. Mary Hodge (D).

A report from Indian Country Today on the unexpected death yesterday of a bill to offer qualifying Native Americans in-state tuition is raising eyebrows–not simply because the bill died, but due to the comments of a Democratic state senator principally responsible for killing it:

A bill in Colorado that would have provided prospective Native American college students with in-state tuition died Tuesday in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Hours after the bill was defeated by a 3-4 vote, State Senator Mary Hodge – the only Democrat to vote against it – told ICTMN that the potential cost of the bill was too great and that there was an issue of “reparations.”

“I don’t know how long we can make reparations [to Native Americans] or how far we’d have to go back,” she said. “I guess my point is we can’t fix what we did.” [Pols emphasis]

House Bill 1124, sponsored by State Representative Joseph Salazar, was to provide a Native American of a federally recognized tribe with resident status when applying to a state-supported institution if the student’s tribe had “historical ties” to what is now Colorado territory. “Often due to circumstances beyond their control, many American Indian tribes and members of American Indian tribes have been forced to relocate across state lines, far from their historical home places,” the bill reads.

“Those people are already gone,” Sen. Hodge said. [Pols emphasis] “At what point do we say ‘we’re sorry’ and move on? And I don’t know if we’re there yet.”

There are questions about the cost of implementing this legislation, though sponsor Rep. Joe Salazar says that the $5 million cost of the bill wouldn't have come from the state budget. But Sen. Mary Hodge's complaints about "reparations" and how "those people are already gone" in reference to Native Americans displaced from what is now Colorado by white settlement go offensively beyond the scope of an appropriations debate–changing the discussion into one about bigoted ignorance of history by an elected public official. In this case, a Democrat.


Laura Boggs Running for State Board of Education

Laura Boggs

Laura Boggs

We've been documenting in this space the right-wing takeover of the Jefferson County School Board, a change that took place last November that was driven in part by onetime Jeffco School Board Member Laura Boggs. The far-right Boggs is now trying to move her voucher-loving education agenda to the state level, challenging incumbent Democrat Jane Goff for a spot on the State Board of Education in CD-7.

As Goff announced Monday in an email to supporters (full text after the jump):

This is the same former Jeffco school board member who warned that she would “tear this county apart.” This is the same former Jeffco school board member who threatened to derail a $32.8 million federal grant to support teacher leadership and development initiatives in the district. This is the same person who, during her single term on the Jeffco board, was censured twice for behavior unbefitting her position. (News coverage here and here.)  

While we are not surprised to see a pro-voucher, right-wing candidate emerge for State School Board, we are a little perplexed that it is Boggs herself. Conservative school board victories in Jefferson County were won in a below-the-radar fashion last fall, but Boggs will not slip by unnoticed; she is not so much a lightning rod for criticism as she is a full-on storm cloud. The presence of Boggs on the November ballot will likely do more to engage Jefferson County parents against Republicans.


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:


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:


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.


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.