The Orwellian Desperation of Jefferson County Republicans

SATURDAY UPDATE: The Denver Post's Eric Gorski, who took the photo of Jefferson County protesters that was crudely doctored for this Republican mailer to remove their original protest message, is most unhappy to see it being misused:

The photo on the fliers appears to blur out the faces of the students. The sign messages were changed to reflect … it’s not clear.

But one thing that is clear is students took to the streets because they are unhappy with a school board controlled by three Republicans who won office in 2013… [Pols emphasis]

Neville, Sanchez and Woods won GOP primaries and had the backing of the strongly conservative Rocky Mountain Gun Owners organization. Neville’s son, Joe, is a lobbyist for the gun group. Neville’s sister-in-law, Julie Williams, sits on the Jeffco school board.

In addition to Jefferson County Public Schools' demand that these candidates stop using the district's trademarked logo, the Post's lawyers are demanding they stop using the doctored image of these students:

“Not only does the use of the photograph infringe copyright interests, it violates other intellectual property laws by unlawfully associating The Denver Post with your campaign. It also violates basic transparency principles by altering a photograph without informing the readers. Finally, it offends the Fair Use policies in place by Twitter and creates an actionable claim by the person pictured in the photograph holding the sign.” [Pols emphasis]

If we were one of the kids in this doctored photo, we'd be talking to Mom and Dad about a lawyer.

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nevillemailer

7NEWS reports:

Attorneys representing Jeffco Public Schools have sent a cease and desist letter to candidates for state senate who used the district's logo in a campaign mailing.

Tim Neville, a self-described "Independent Republican," is running for office in Senate District 16. The campaign flier in question criticizes incumbent State Senator Jeanne Nicholson.

Beside the district's logo, the flyer states: "Jeffco schools are in crisis because Denver politicians like Jeanne Nicholson are keeping funding from the classroom while giving more power to corrupt union bosses."

Neville's statement of "crisis" in the district references recent widespread protesting over the conservative board majority's decisions regarding teacher compensation and a plan to review the AP US History Curriculum…

As you can see above, the mailer plainly makes use of the Jefferson County Public Schools' copyrighted logo, and that's obviously not okay. But there are other aspects to this mailer that make it vastly more deceptive. For starters, a sign held by a student in the photo has been crudely doctored to replace their protest message with the words "I want my future back." The original photo, taken by the Denver Post's Eric Gorski, clearly displays the student's original message: "my education, my voice, save AP U.S. history." We assume nobody has spoken with that student about this mailer yet, but we rather doubt she would approve of her sign being altered in this manner.

We think she'll be especially outraged to learn, as 7NEWS continues, that

Neville is the brother-in-law of Jeffco School Board Member Julie Williams. [Pols emphasis]

That's right, folks–the brother-in-law of Julie Williams, the school board member at the heart of the recent internationally-publicized controversy over "reviewing" the district's AP history curriculum, is himself altering the history of the recent protests against Williams to make it look like he sympathizes. The mailer includes a photo of Tim Neville with his wife Barb, Julie Williams' sister, who also runs Williams' political action committee (PAC). The deception here is so over the top brazen that it just leaves you shaking your head in disbelief. It's not much better for two other Jefferson County Republican Senate candidates who sent out similar mailers, Laura Waters Woods in SD-19 and Tony Sanchez in SD-22, both of whom have been supported by Williams and vice versa–but in Neville's case it's so outlandishly hypocritical and insulting to have doctored this student's protest sign that we have to think it will end in disaster.

That, or history is in greater danger than anyone ever imagined.

Dear Jeffco Students, Sorry if It Feels Insulting, but You’re “Pawns”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

After the last big meeting of the Jeffco School Board, I was driving my teenager home from school, and we heard conservative radio host Kris Cook's analysis of the meeting:

Cook: "They had students saying, 'Don't censor my history,' and taking umbrage at the fact that we, correctly, labeled them as pawns, because they have been made into pawns. I'm sorry students. I know that feels insulting. But your critical thinking skills are not where you think they are. And that is not your fault. Honestly, you've been offered a one-sided view for so long that you don't know how to assess both sides of a situation and come down on what the truth may be." [BigMedia emphasis]

I looked over at my teenager, who definitely has enough critical-thinking skills to understand a school-board proposal, and thought, why the crass condescension?

And Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has said essentially the same thing, that teachers are manipulating the Jeffco students.

My kid doesn't go to the Jeffco schools, but if you've ever spent time with teenagers from Denver, Jeffco, or anywhere, or if you've ever been a teenager yourself, you know that when they decide to focus on something other than Facebook or Snap Chat, they're amazing.

So I emailed Cook, who hosts KLZ's Grassroots Radio Colorado, and I asked why she had such a low view of the intellect of Jeffco teens.

Cook wrote that "no censorship had been proposed by Julie Williams or anyone else on the school board," and, yet, the "students, by their own admission, were protesting censorship of the AP US History curriculum."

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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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Denver Post: Enough is Enough, Faye Griffin

Faye Griffin

The Denver Post published a strongly-worded editorial critical of Jefferson County Commissioner (and Clerk & Recorder candidate) Faye Griffin. The editorial board's rebuke of Griffin for what the Post calls "job hopping" contains some stunningly-candid quotes from Griffin herself:

We asked Griffin why she would leave the commission two years early, and she was candid in saying it was due to term limits.

Griffin is in the middle of her second term, and if she stayed in the position, she couldn't run for the commission again — and there would be no other palatable options for her, in her mind.

"In two years, there's no county office that is open," Griffin said. So, she is seeking the office she held for eight years, starting in 1998. [Pols emphasis]

Political blog JeffcoPols pointed out Griffin's move and speculated that it could be part of a larger shuffle of Republican politicians in Jefferson County intended to avoid open-seat elections.

Even if it is wrong about the specific moves, the blog makes a valid point about how Griffin's action would cede power to the GOP vacancy committee in Jefferson County.

Last week we outlined how Griffin's "job hopping" could sweep two other Republicans into elected office without having to be, you know, elected, which is a stunt Griffin has helped initiate on more than one occasion. This is an issue that Jeffco Pols first picked up last November, when we wrote, "Finish Your Damn Job, Faye Griffin."

The 75-year-old Griffin has been repeatedly elected to various offices in Jefferson County, primarily because of her longstanding name ID, but it's pretty amazing that she is so blunt about her own personal interests taking precedence over doing right by Jefferson County. Her supporters all say that Griffin is "a very nice old lady," and we have no reason to suspect otherwise, but that doesn't make this right. When Griffin tells the Post that "in two years, there's no county office that is open," she almost makes it sound as though she has no other choice but to run for something else before the end of her elected term. Griffin is asking a lot of Jeffco voters, yet as the Post notes in its editorial, it's not too much for voters to ask that she finish the job she sought in the first place.

Let’s Just Let Faye Griffin Choose All of Our Elected Officials

The Jeffco Shuffle: Government by Vacancy Committee

The Jeffco Shuffle: Government by Vacancy Committee

Jefferson County voters may be familiar with the name Faye Griffin, in large part because her name has been on a Jeffco ballot since the dawn of time. The 75-year-old Griffin is both allergic to the concept of "term limits" and more than willing to let the rest of the GOP county government trade on her name ID in order to retain any elected position for as long as possible.

As we first noted last November ("Finish Your Damn Job, Faye Griffin"), Griffin is a serial office jumper. Currently in the middle of her second term as Jefferson County Commissioner, Griffin is running (again) for County Clerk & Recorder; if she is successful in November, she will have held 4 separate elected positions in one 8-year span, and failed to finish her elected term for the second time in five years. More importantly for Republicans, Griffin's constant movement should allow two other term-limited Republicans a chance at holding a new office without having to go through an actual election – a pretty sneaky way to get around those pesky "voters" in Jeffco.

If Griffin is elected Clerk & Recorder (which is likely because of her high name ID that plays a major role in a countywide vote), that will create an immediate opening for a spot on the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners. The term-limited Treasurer Tim Kauffman would then likely be appointed by a Republican vacancy committee…which would leave Kauffman's Treasurer seat open for another GOP vacancy committee selection (likely to be the term-limited County Assessor Jim Everson).

And thus, with the election of Faye Griffin, Jeffco Republicans can avoid open-seat election battles for two other county jobs. Furthermore, Griffin has indicated that she may retire soon, which would open a vacancy for Clerk & Recorder that would be filled via…a Republican vacancy committee!

You can see Griffin's many moves over the years in the list below (after the jump). This is frequent occurrence in Jefferson County — Kauffman himself was appointed Treasurer when Griffin left that office to run for County Commissioner in 2008. But as Republican control over countywide elections continues to fade in Jeffco, the powers behind the curtain are doing everything they can to hold on to any office at the "Taj Mahal."

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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.

 

Making Julie Williams The Face of The GOP

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

As the months-long protests against actions of the new conservative Jefferson County school board majority have raged on, and in the last few weeks gained international media coverage, we've tried to stay focused on the next logical question for a political blog–what effect these highly visible and popular protests will have on next month's elections. Jefferson County is considered one of the state's (and for that matter, the nation's) foremost political bellwethers, and a win in Jefferson County is generally considered to be mandatory to winning any statewide race.

In addition to the general fact that the Jeffco school board is now controlled by identifiably partisan Republicans, board member Julie Williams has close ties to the Neville family of well-known conservative Republican Jefferson County activists. As Williams has emerged as the central figure in the recent AP history curriculum review controversy, her personal connections to Republican state legislative candidates–along with the damage to the GOP brand her proposal caused just ahead of a major election–are a legitimate concern for Republicans who want to win elections next month.

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reported last night, Democrats are doing what they can to bring about the GOP's worst-case scenario:

In a new television ad, Colorado Democrats attempt to draw a line between the three conservative Jefferson County School Board members whose effort to square the district’s AP U.S. History curriculum with their idea of “American exceptionalism” has sparked weeks of protest, with four Republican state senate candidates looking to oust Democratic incumbents.

The Democratic Senate Campaign Fund, an initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party, is behind the ad, the most serious effort yet to leverage the ongoing controversy over the Jefferson County School Board into a political advantage in next month’s election.

The group is betting that swing voters in Colorado’s biggest bellwether county will side with the students and teachers who have protested the board’s move — and that linking four GOP senate hopefuls to the conservative board majority could swing these competitive races that are certain to affect the balance of power within the Capitol’s upper chamber come January.

“Jefferson County families are against the extreme Tea Party slate pushing their ideological agenda on families. That’s not how we do things in Colorado, said Andrew Short, the DSCF’s executive director. “They have nationally embarrassed us and they will pay for it in November.” [Pols emphasis]

UPDATE: From the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund's press release:

Tim Neville’s sister-in-law, school board member Julie Williams is trying to push her extreme agenda into the State Senate. She has the backing of her brother-in-law, Tim Neville and is also supporting Laura Woods, Tony Sanchez, and Larry Queen.
 
“We stand on the side of students, parents, and teachers – and against the extreme Tea Party agenda.  This isn’t about party politics.  This is about what is right.  The Tea Party won all the Jefferson County primaries last June and is now pushing their ideological agenda on Jefferson County families. This will not be accepted by middle of the road, Jefferson County voters,” said Short.
 
Beginning with a pop quiz, the ad asks, “The censoring of textbooks and rewriting of history recently resulted in public protests, where?”  The answer is Jefferson County.  The ad outlines how the new school board extremists nationally embarrassed Jefferson County families. It also highlights Julie Williams’ support for the Jefferson County Tea Party slate for State Senate.

Williams' original proposal to review Jeffco's new AP history curriculum to ensure it "promotes patriotism" and does not "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law" was, it's safe to say today, politically disastrous. The literally worldwide attention it received precipitated anger that transcended party lines–at least with the overwhelming majority created by Democrats, independent voters, and yes, even Republicans who draw a bright white line at political censorship of history. It's another case where this new majority has tried to impose a right-wing agenda item that's simply out of step in a moderate place like Jefferson County. And with so much bad blood between this new board majority and the community already, stripping the review committee proposal of Williams' incendiary language did little to assuage fears.

Voters can already see, and will find it easily if they haven't, that this is a partisan political battle unfolding. The ad above supplies important data points that connect what's happening on the streets of Jefferson County with Republicans on the ballots going out next week.

We'll say it again: as Jefferson County goes, so goes Colorado. There is a possibility, and it is growing, that Republicans well above the county level will pay a dear price for Julie Williams on Election Night.

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.

School Board Protests The Talk of Bellwether Jefferson County

80thandwads2
Photo courtesy Jefferson County Education Association

At 64th and Wadsworth yesterday.

At 64th and Wadsworth yesterday.

Following this week's adoption of a watered-down version of a highly controversial curriculum review of Jefferson County's AP U.S. History, students, teachers, and other residents turned out during yesterday afternoon's rush hour for a huge protest. Groups of protesters took up positions at intersections along 22 miles of Wadsworth Boulevard, Jefferson County's highest-traffic arterial surface street. Photos via Twitter, and as Chalkbeat Colorado's Nicholas Garcia reported last night:

The aim of those gathered along the 30-mile stretch of Wadsworth Boulevard, a major traffic conduit in the Denver suburb, is to raise awareness for their concerns regarding Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk, who make up the new majority on the Jeffco school board…

“First is was [the school readiness evaluation program], then it was full-day kindergarten, then it was more money for charter schools,” [Jefferson County mom Amanda Stevens] said, continuing to list more controversial decisions…

Critics of the [history review] proposal, originally introduced by Williams, feared the committee would eventually lead to censoring an advanced U.S. history class.

On Thursday night, the board majority approved a sort of half-compromise on a 3-2 vote. Instead of creating a brand new committee, they amended current district policies that govern challenges to curriculum to include students and board-appointed community members to a panel to review materials. The committees will also now report directly to the board instead of the superintendent.

AP's report:

Protesters packed street corners on Friday afternoon in organized rallies along Wadsworth Boulevard for more than 22 miles, from 120th Avenue south into the Ken Caryl area…

The Colorado board didn’t vote on its original proposal to review the history course with an eye toward promoting patriotism and downplaying social disorder – language students have blasted in waves of school-time protests across the district. However, students and other activists say the board’s new approach to include students on existing curriculum review committees doesn’t satisfy them because they believe board members will ultimately try to change the history course to suit their views.

“This isn’t over,” said Ashlyn Maher, 18, a Chatfield High School senior who has been helping organize protests over the past two weeks. “We are going to fight until we see some results.”

The issue has grabbed national attention, and some protesters said they hoped Jefferson County’s grappling with it offers lessons to other districts.

—–

CBS4 carried the story last night with some aerial footage:

54thandwads

We were given an informal head count of around 2,500 total participants along the entire length of Wadsworth Boulevard between 4-6PM yesterday. As the protests went on, Democratic candidates like Congressman Ed Perlmutter (photo after the jump) and state Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp worked the crowds in attendance at various points along the route. With at least the visibility of the recent en masse student walk-outs, and covering a much larger area at rush hour, it would have been difficult for a very large percentage of Jefferson County residents to miss what was going on.

Although the curriculum review "compromise" proposal had the most politically incendiary language originally proposed by board member Julie Williams stripped out, the change to a review committee that answers directly to the right-wing controlled school board majority, as well as the ability of the board to pack the new committees with politically like-minded "concerned citizens," leaves opponents with little confidence. Even without Williams's stated desire to review history curriculum to ensure it "promotes patriotism" and does not "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," the board majority's clear desire to meddle with history curriculum for these purposes has been broadcast for (quite literally) the entire world to see.

The last few weeks of international newsmaking controversy in Jefferson County have introduced a volatile electoral element in what is arguably the state's foremost political bellwether just days before mail ballots go out to every registered voter. It's difficult to predict exactly what effect these protests may have on next month's elections, but there is no realistic scenario in which this becomes a positive for Jefferson County Republicans–or the statewide Republican races counting on a good showing there. As we've discussed previously, board member Williams is directly tied by immediate family members to numerous Republican legislative candidates running in Jefferson County. But the larger danger is this: that the lay public in Jefferson County realizes what is happening is politically partisan.

To the degree less-interested voters figure out that these highly popular and heavily-covered protests, and the underlying issue of protecting history courses from political witch hunts by unscholarly political activists, all have a common origin with Republicans they can punish at the polls now–even though the new school board majority is not on the ballot? For Republicans, the worst-case scenario here is, in a word, bad.

It's going to factor on Election Day. The question we have to wait to see answered is, how much.

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Jeffco School Board Meeting Open Thread; Watch Live Stream Here

Julie Williams Support

Both of them showed up tonight.

Why does this get its own Open Thread, you say? From 9News.com:

A fight over how United States history is taught is coming to a head in Jefferson County on Thursday with students and teachers expected to pack a school board meeting where the controversial changes could face a vote…

…Turnout is expected to be so high that the teachers' union plans to stream video from the meeting room — which holds a couple hundred people — on a big screen in the parking lot outside. Students are making plans to start their protests early in the day.

Turnout is expected to be so high that they will be LIVE-STREAMING VIDEO TO THE PARKING LOT. That's…wow.

You can watch a Live Stream of the School Board Meeting after the jump below. Twitter users should follow the hashtag #JeffcoSchoolBoardHistory.

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Beauprez says Jeffco teachers are manipulating students to walk out over teacher merit pay

(Wrong answer, Bob – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Bob Beauprez.

Bob Beauprez.

In an interview on KOA 850-AM Tuesday, gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez sharply criticized Jeffco students and teachers who've been protesting against a proposed curriculum review, the conflict is really about merit pay for teachers, not the curriculum.

Asked what message he has for "students, parents, teachers, and administrators in the Jefferson County school district," Beauprez said, "Get back to the task at hand, and that’s instructing the kids."

"This [protest] supposedly was about curriculum," Beauprez told KOA, touching on the topic of tonight's meeting of the Jefferson County School Board, "But I think it’s a long ways removed from curriculum. I think it’s really just a manifestation of the ongoing battle between the school board and the teachers’ union over pay, and in this case, merit pay. The curriculum is a very secondary issue."

In particular, Beauprez implied that Jeffco students were being manipulated by teachers, calling the student actions a "teacher-encouraged protest."

Asked what role the governor should play in the dispute, Beauprez aligned himself with the Jeffco Schools' Superintendent, and he sounded (see below) as if he believes gubernatorial intervention would be justified if the conflict continues.

Beauprez said it's now "very close to that moment in time when the legitimate requests and needs of the parents and the students are not being met, and teachers are not meeting their contractual obligation to be in that classroom teaching kids."

The Colorado Indpendent's Tessa Cheek reported Tuesday that Jeffco parents were upset by simlar, but less strident, comments Beauprez made in a recent speech. Cheek reported:

“What we’ve got going on in JeffCo right now is a bit of a complicated situation,” Beauprez said in a forum at Metro State college on Friday.

“I think the school board, an elected school board, they have a proxy from the citizens of Jefferson County to review that curriculum and to opine about that curriculum,” he continued. “And the remedy — if the citizens, the voters, decide that the school board has made a mistake — the remedy comes pretty quickly, in the next election. That’s the way I think it should work.”

The comment hit a nerve for Shawna Fritzler. She’s a registered Republican with a nine-year-old daughter who attends a JeffCo public school. She’s also the president of her school’s Parent Teacher Association and a citizen-chair of the JeffCo public school’s planning and advisory council. She said she is frustrated to see a top-of-the-ticket politician weigh in during an election year without enough context.

“Bob Beauprez says to take it to the ballot box,” she said. “You want me to wait three more years of my nine-year old’s education? My daughter has to wait for an election? That’s asinine.”

On KNUS radio this morning, conservative Dan Caplis said he believes "all of this theater is geared to the launch of a recall election" of the Jefferson County School Board.

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Jeffco School Board Troubles Impacting 2014 Election

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

State senate candidate Tony Sanchez is one of many Republicans who probably wish they never took that picture next to Jeffco School Board member Julie Williams.

THURSDAY UPDATE: The Jeffco Board of Education is scheduled to meet tonight, and they are expected to use their 3-2 right-wing majority to ram through an initiative to change the curriculum of high school history classes. Community outrage, be damned.

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We've written before in this space that the controversy surrounding the Jefferson County School Board would inevitably bleed into key races in 2014; it was only a matter of time that the biggest story in the most important electoral county in the state would break into the election cycle. As Nick Riccardi reports for the Associated Press:

The protests over a Colorado school district’s proposal to promote patriotism and de-emphasize civil disobedience in American history classes have found their way into the state’s marquee election races, injecting a volatile issue two weeks before early voting ballots land in mailboxes across the state…

…At its Sept. 19 meeting, the board proposed creating a committee to review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” and don’t “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

The ensuing walkouts brought criticism from some candidates, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, a former congressman who represented Jefferson County. He said the board is within its rights to consider the adjustments.

“They have every right to discuss curriculum,” Beauprez said. “What this is really about is the continuing tiff between the teachers union and the elected majority.” [Pols emphasis]

His opponent, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, criticized the proposed curriculum changes.

We were a bit surprised, frankly, that this question didn't come in last night's Gubernatorial debate, though Bob Beauprez had already stepped in the mess on Friday. Yesterday The Colorado Independent followed up on Beauprez's school board comments from Friday; unsurprisingly, Jeffco parents are not pleased:

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Jeffco Schools Superintendent Threatens Teachers Over Latest Protest

Dan McMinimee

Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee has turned to the “threaten teachers” section of his right-wing handbook.

UPDATE: We'll have more on this before tomorrow's Gubernatorial debate at the Denver Post auditorium, but in the meantime, here's an interesting take from Westword: (we had a feeling this would happen):

Meanwhile, the proposed history curriculum changes could become an issue in the upcoming gubernatorial race between Democrat office-holder John Hickenlooper and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. At a debate Friday, the Durango Herald reports that Beauprez backed board members: "An elected school board not only has the right to speak up about curriculum and what they think are the wisest choices…but they have an obligation to do that," he said. Hickenlooper, for his part, was more critical, arguing that "you want your kids to learn about Dr. Martin Luther King, but you also want them to learn about the Boston Tea Party."

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Classes were cancelled today at Golden and Jefferson High Schools in Jefferson County when a majority of teachers called in sick as part of an ongoing protest against heavy-handed tactics from the right-wing majority school board. As Jesse Paul of the Denver Post reports, Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee is talking tough about cracking down on teacher protests…which is not going to go over well:

Teachers who missed school will have to show proof of illness, he said, adding that personal days need 24-hours notice.

"We are going to have our building principals work with each teacher involved in this," he said.

"We will probably dock them a day's pay," McMinimee said of teachers who didn't follow the guidelines of the collective bargaining agreement. "I think it's time for this to end. Let's put an end to this." [Pols emphasis]

That tone-deaf statement from McMinimee is fairly typical of the response we have seen from the conservative members of the Jeffco School Board — Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk have been oddly surprised that students, parents, and teachers are not excited about the idea of non-educators making massive curriculum changes. Even though Jefferson and Golden High Schools were closed today, that didn't stop students from another day of protests. McMinimee and the school board might want to pay closer attention to what the students are saying:

Angelica Dole, a sophomore at Jefferson High School, said the students were 100 percent behind their teachers.

"This is our own time. This was all students. No teachers are here, look around," Dole said.

At the same time that administrators are talking tough, the students are taking matters into their own hands, which further complicates any response. McMinimee and the school board have made passing references in the last week essentially laying the blame for protests with the JCEA (the Jeffco teachers' union), and they are getting more aggressive with those accusations and in trying to crack the whip with teachers. But the students can make things much, much more problematic:

The recent walk and sick-outs have raised alarm as the Oct. 1 state county day approaches, which determines district funding by enrolled and present students.

State officials said Monday that absences should not affect the district's funding — which is $7,021 per student — because of extensions and rules in the count which allow for students present five days before and five days after Oct. 1 to be included in the funding determination.

Ken Witt

School Board President Ken Witt. He’s “an adult.”

We're now entering the third week of high-profile protests in response to asinine actions from the right-wing Jeffco School Board. In that time, we've learned one thing above all others: Julie Williams and the rest of the conservative board appear to be completely clueless as to how to deal with this situation…which they, of course, created with their own actions. Check out this quote from Board President Ken Witt:

"I'm very disappointed that some of our instructors have chose not to turn up for work today. It is not appropriate for adult matters to impact the education of our students." [Pols emphasis]

Yes, really. That's Ken Witt saying it is not appropriate for "adult matters" to impact the education of our students. When you say, "adult matters," Ken, do you include when "adults" make inappropriate school curriculum plans based on partisan political positioning? Or does this only apply to "other" adults?

The Hubris of Julie Williams

UPDATE: The College Board weighs in strongly in support of students protesting against the Jefferson County school board's proposed "censorship" of the AP history framework, via 9NEWS:

"The College Board's Advanced Placement Program® supports the actions taken by students in Jefferson County, Colorado to protest a school board member's request to censor aspects of the AP U.S. History course," The College Board said in a statement.

The statement cites concerns with a portion of the proposal submitted by Jeffco School Board Member Julie Williams which reads "Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."

The College Board states, "These students recognize that the social order can – and sometimes must – be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice. Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history – from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement. And these events and ideas are essential within the study of a college-level, AP U.S. History course." [Pols emphasis]

We have a theory who the kids are going to listen to–and it's not Julie Williams.

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Yesterday, FOX 31 caught up with Jefferson County Board of Education member Julie Williams–the member of the new hard-right conservative majority school board responsible for a proposal to "review" new AP history curriculum standards, in hope of ensuring they do not "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," and "present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage" while promoting "citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system." Her proposal has resulted in massive student protests all week in Jefferson County, as thousands of students walked out of class and took to the streets to demand that history "not be a mystery."

Williams has been difficult to reach by the press in the last few days as protests over her proposal raged, so FOX 31's interview was a big chance for her to set the record straight.

Or to make things much, much worse for herself, which is what happened.

FOX31 Denver’s Kent Erdahl spoke with Julie Williams Thursday night, the board member who is at the center of this controversy. The goal was to find out what she has in mind and what her reaction is to the protests which have been taking place for a week now…

Many say the fear comes from Williams` original criteria for her proposed committee which states … “Materials should present positive aspects of the United States,”  “Promote patriotism” and “should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

“Basically, what I am asking for is for history to be taught complete, without bias. So the good, the bad, the ugly without bias,” Williams says.

Kent Erdahl asked her, “Isn`t discouraging things like civil disobedience bias?” Williams answer, “I`m not talking about changing the history to not teach that. I`m saying we shouldn`t be encouraging our kids to disobey the law and that`s what`s happening right now. [Pols emphasis] Our kids are being encouraged to walk out of the schools.”

As we've noted a few times while covering the antics of the new Jeffco school board majority, Julie Williams is a member of the Neville "political dynasty" of arch-conservative political activists and politicians, which is very well known both in Jefferson County and at the Colorado Capitol. Williams is the sister-in-law of former GOP state Sen. Tim Neville, once again a candidate for the Senate in District 16. Tim Neville's son is Joe Neville, chief lobbyist for the infamous Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. Joe Neville's RMGO this election season is supporting a number of RMGO-endorsed legislative candidates.

And you know, it's a funny thing: RMGO doesn't have much trouble with people breaking laws.

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Remember when Sen. Greg Brophy (R-RMGO) said these words from the well of the Colorado Senate? Brophy was hailed as a champion of freedom by RMGO and the gun lobby after he announced he would not obey House Bill 1224, the magazine limit law enacted last year.

Now folks, we don't know about you, but we'd say Brophy's declaration of "civil disobedience" to Colorado's magazine limit law sounds an awful lot like "encouraging our kids to break the law," doesn't it? Do you think the RMGO's "I Will Not Comply" T-shirts (above right) might be "encouraging" people to break the law?

Does Julie Williams own one?

In a way, this sums up the whole problem with any politically biased "review" of history, to smooth over the unsightly parts and not "encourage disregard for the law." Any time you try to review/rewrite/sanitize/whatever you want to call it history–any time you treat history as something you can bend to the politics of the moment–it comes back to bite you, from the civil rights movement to…well, even Greg Brophy.

And yes, sanitizing civil rights history in the U.S. is far worse than making a hypocrite of Greg Brophy. Almost incomparably worse. But Brophy's and RMGO's open support for lawbreaking does one thing very well: it throws the hypocrisy of Julie Williams into sharp relief.

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Another Day, Another Massive Protest In Jefferson County

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Photo via Twitter

The Denver Post's Jesse Paul reports, the student protests in Jefferson County over the new conservative school board majority's proposal to "review" new AP history curriculum raged again Thursday:

Nearly one thousand students from Columbine and Dakota Ridge high schools walked out of classes Thursday morning, punctuating the fourth straight day of Jefferson County school protests.

Students from Columbine, Lakewood, Bear Creek and Dakota Ridge high schools all walked out Thursday. It was the largest protest in what has been a week of escalating tensions between students and the school board…

Jefferson County School Board Chairman Ken Witt spoke to reporters near the Columbine protest.

"I think it's unfortunate presently to our students being used as pawns," Witt said. He also said he thought the student protests were a union tool and that students were being misled.

While Jefferson County school board conservatives defend their actions, the Post's Eric Gorski updates today on the broad range of divisive actions this new school board has taken, of which the latest "curriculum review" is the most recent example:

In the face of mass protests from students, members of the Jefferson County school board majority Wednesday defended a proposed curriculum committee and called it misunderstood, while signaling the most criticized elements are likely to be cut.

The proposed panel has emerged as the largest point of disagreement yet in the state's second-largest school district, a perennially high academic achiever that saw a conservative, reform-minded board majority voted in 10 months ago.

Like the election last November of three Republican board candidates who ran as a slate, the curriculum controversy is also an example of partisan politics playing a greater role in public education — in this case, involving a charged debate about changes in how Advanced Placement students are learning American history.

The angry denials from conservative board members in today's stories are severely undercut by the wording of the proposal. They are further undercut by fellow board member Julie Williams' stunning response to the protests, in which decries the new AP history curriculum's "emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing"–a diatribe more appropriate from fringe AM talk radio than the board of one of the state's largest and highest achieving school districts. According to Gorski's report, Williams' conservative colleagues John Newkirk and Ken Witt intend to cut the most offensive language from Williams' proposal: presumably, the stuff about how history courses should "not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," and "present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage."

But the language in the proposal might be a sideshow to the real problem. Although Jefferson County has had curriculum reviews before, the committees involved were generally composed of education professionals and experts. This new proposal for a review of AP history simply calls for a majority vote by the school board. Since the current conservative majority took office, almost every decision made by the board has been a 3-2 party line vote. That means this committee could very easily be stacked by conservative political activists with no educational qualifications–which, incidentally, perfectly describes the new conservative majority on the Jeffco school board! And in case you're wondering if that's what the right really wants, check out this message sent from a supporter of Williams to prospective review committee members:

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It's as bad as it looks, folks. Defensive bluster aside, the facts back up the concerns of the protesters. Last year, a failed education funding initiative brought out legions of conservative voters to vote against it, in the process installing a school board majority in Jefferson County that is distantly to the right of the population they are entrusted to serve. Today, however, the unexpected "bonus" of Amendment 66's crushing at the polls, a far-right school board majority in Jeffco, may blow back hard on conservatives in this electoral bellwether county–doing political damage far beyond anything they had hoped to gain.

Between here and there, we expect a lot more protests.