Thankfully, someone has decided to take the teachers’ union to task. Two parents in the Poudre School District (Fort Collins) have filed a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office against the Poudre Education Association (PEA) for violating the state’s Constitution and Fair Campaign Practices Act.
The specific charges include:
1. Failure to report coordination of electioneering activities with State Senate candidate Bob Bacon. (You may remember Bacon beat Republican Ft. Collins mayor Ray Martinez in one of 2004’s heavily contended races.)
2. Failure to report expenditures compensating volunteers for their work on the Bacon campaign.
3. Using public school district facilities and resources for partisan political purposes.
Those filing the complaint are Wayne Rutt and Paul Marrick. They are represented by attorney Scott Gessler.
Per the requirements of Colorado law, the Secretary of State is to forward the complaint to an administrative law judge, who will oversee the hearing. More on the legal details later (frankly, not being a lawyer, I have to look them up).
Back in early January, I posted about an opinion piece written by Mr. Marrick with the heading “Where’s the Outrage?” Mr. Marrick highlighted the fact previously pointed out in one of my Independence Institute Issue Papers – namely that PEA President Mary Lynn Jones was drawing all but $15,000 of her $71,000 salary from taxpayers while on full-time leave to perform advocacy for the teachers’ union. Poudre’s subsidy arrangement is just the most egregious of about 15 Colorado school districts that pay part of a union president’s salary while on some form of leave.
In yesterday’s guest editorial for the Coloradoan, Mary Lynn Jones defended the practice:
We also have negotiated a leave of absence for the PEA president, and we reimburse the district for a mutually agreed share of the annual expenses of doing so. This has been the case for at least 25 years. We are confident that this is appropriate and lawful, and we stand behind this negotiated right.
Marrick pointed out in his earlier op-ed that Jones “spent a great deal of time working on a political campaign.” Put two and two together. You can see why the complainants believe that taxpayer dollars were used to fund a partisan campaign.
Teachers’ union officials are confident that such practices are “appropriate and lawful” because they have been accustomed to a privileged spot at the education monopoly table for several decades. Taking actions like the complaint filed by Rutt and Marrick should at least make union officials squirm a bit.
And rest assured Poudre is not alone: there are other similar, highly questionable incidents that took place in at least one other Colorado school district in 2004. Should this first complaint be successfully prosecuted, it just may be a significant crack in the surface of the education monopoly.