2014

15 January 2014: Right-wingers leave schools without a prayer

Right-wingers leave schools without a prayer

The crusade began with the Douglas County Board of Education in 2009.  A shift in power took place giving the forces of so-called reform a majority.  That new majority began to impose rules that took aim at veteran teachers with the hope they’d move on and out.  They’re succeeding.

To self-promote its political agenda, Dougco BOE’s conservative majority sent parents and voters a letter at taxpayer expense quoting a report lauding their performance by the rightwing American Enterprise Institute’s Frederick Hess and Max Eden that made claim to “compelling illustration of how a unified board majority can fuel rapid, ambitious reform.”

Judge Hollyce Farrell declared their action illegal finding “the district spent public funds to influence the outcome of the Board election.”

The culprits feigned innocence, but even the Denver Post’s conservative editorial board chair Vincent Carroll agrees with the judge:

“I’m not so sure,” he writes. “School districts can indeed be veritable fonts of self-promotion, and it’s unreasonable to think they should be barred from tooting their own horns as an election approaches just because a candidate or two might share the same enthusiasm for their work.”

But, Carroll continues, “Farrell would have been entirely off base if the report in question had confined itself merely to positive conclusions about the district’s reforms involving school choice, merit pay and teacher evaluations. But the report — titled ‘The Most Interesting School District in America?’ — went slightly further.”

A whole lot further, in fact.  They played the reform card to sow doubt and unease into the minds of an otherwise unsuspecting electorate that subscribes to authentic reform.  “The November results promise to say a great deal about where matters stand in Dougco,” the report held.

In Jeffco, the new fundamentalist majority seemingly has taken steps not to keep themselves distant from prayer gatherings, but from the press and the public in general, violating Colorado’s sunshine laws.

On December 17, 2013 the Denver Post reported, “The Jefferson County school board’s new majority may have skirted a law that requires them to conduct business openly by hiring an attorney without a public interview process, according to an open-government expert.

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

The Columbine Courier, the Courant’s sister paper, reported on December 16, 2013 that the decision was met with “boos from the audience.”

“Board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman said after the meeting that they dissented not because they oppose the board having its own attorney, but because they objected to the way the motion was introduced and voted on.  They objected to a lack of discussion about the attorney’s scope of work or the fee the district would pay, and said board members had only two days to call two candidates before a decision was made at the meeting. Plus, there was no public input on the issue and no discussion about financing the attorney’s fees.”

About 100 community members in attendance agreed. “The board was loudly booed twice — once when the motion was made to hire the attorney and again when the vote was taken.”

The issue is deeper than a flagrant violation of state law; it’s about how that once empowered, rightwing, conservative majorities immediately seek to hire, at taxpayer expense, a separate attorney, separate from the District’s counsel, to advise them.  There’s a pattern there in that certain attorneys’ names—such as Miller and Sparks—surface consistently.

Writes and queries the Denver Post’s Alicia Caldwell: “It’s certainly not an auspicious start. Let’s stipulate the new majority, elected with the help of voucher advocate Alex Cranberg and others, came in facing suspicions from certain quarters about their intentions. Would they push for vouchers? Would they focus less on neighborhood schools and more on charters? Was Jeffco about to go the way of Dougco?”

As one Colorado Pols observer puts it, “Something doesn’t smell right here, and the stink is only going to get worse as board members continue to stay silent.”

The stench does reek.  Behind this are Big Money and a hidden religious agenda that ultimately culminates with the demise of public education.

The sender of the invitation for the prayer conclave for the new Jeffco BOE majority makes clear their intention: “As long as we seek the Lord, we will prosper.”  (2 Ch 26:5)  “If we will prepare our ways before the Lord, we will become mighty.”  (2 Ch 27:6)

To be continued.

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