Fairness and Integrity: Flunking the Test in Fort Collins

According to one Fort Collins high school math teacher, you can’t believe anything I say. If his opinion doesn’t bother you, then go ahead and read. My Independence Institute colleague Amy Oliver helped to uncover the story of the slanted Rocky Mountain High School math exam, which is covered this morning at Face the State:

RMHS is part of the Poudre School District; its teachers are members of the Poudre Education Association (PEA). The Colorado Supreme Court recently announced that it will hear arguments alleging that the PEA illegally campaigned for democrat candidate for state senate, Bob Bacon.

Faithful readers of this site may know something about that issue. For a refresher, here’s an op-ed I wrote last July after the state court of appeals found the PEA and Colorado Education Association had committed several election law violations. Here’s a key excerpt:

In essence, [Democrat Senator Bob] Bacon skirted campaign finance restrictions by outsourcing the costly services of volunteer recruitment and literature distribution to CEA and PEA. The CEA dispatched then-employee Ryan Wulff from CEA headquarters to Fort Collins in August 2004 to organize volunteers and to perform other duties to help elect Bacon. Records indicate that Wulff and Bacon had regular conversations about campaign activities.

Most significantly, Wulff and other union officials orchestrated the disbursement of thousands of Bacon for Senate leaflets at two October 2004 events: the “Great Pumpkin Rally” and “Halloween Hike.” The candidate personally attended both events and thanked the volunteers, which included non-PEA members.

At the Great Pumpkin Rally, volunteers received targeted lists of voter households and went out to knock on doors. If no one was at home, PEA’s instructions urged volunteers to write a message as from the candidate himself: “Sorry I missed you! Bob Bacon.” If asked questions, volunteers were instructed to say that Bacon himself would come by later to answer them.

PEA’s written instructions implied that important voter information was shared between PEA and the Bacon campaign.

In today’s Fort Collins Coloradoan, RMHS principal Tom Lopez has sought to explain away the recent math test revelation – saying there was a second version of the test that described Democrats as “liars.” There are several problems with this assertion:

1. No one has come forward with the alleged second version of the test.

2. In a previous recorded interview on the topic, the principal never mentioned the second version.

3. The teacher in question – identified by 850 KOA host Mike Rosen as Brian Mierzwa – is himself a registered Democrat voter, according to Face the State’s research.

Besides, would it really be better to impugn the integrity of voters registered with both political parties? From the RMHS point of view, yes – they can write it off as a case of general political cynicism rather than a case of blatant partisanship. The only thing is there’s no proof of the second exam. So in light of the already politically heated atmosphere in Fort Collins – thanks to the exposed activities of the teachers union – the explanation too closely resembles a convenient excuse.

Though not as dramatic in many ways, this case is somewhat reminiscent of last year’s Jay Bennish saga. The “pay no attention to us, leave us alone” attitude of some in the education establishment is further proof for the need to expand the power of parents and education consumers through greater choice and competition.

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