Imagine sitting down to write a term paper or thesis, then releasing the first draft of the paper not only to your professor but to a worldwide audience. Now imagine your paper contains instructions for allocating billions of tax dollars to a bunch of different groups. You can start to understand what Colorado state senator Michael Johnston (D-Denver) feels like after releasing a draft of legislation to rewrite the state’s 19-year-old School Finance Act.
In the funny game of democratic politics, is it better to make a bold push in one direction, or to try to bring diverse interests together around a “Grand Bargain”? When it comes to Johnston’s monumental effort, the question is being played out before our eyes. The idea is to tie “bold” school finance reform to a “bold” $1 billion tax increase proposal on November’s ballot.
Ed News Colorado reported on last Thursday’s feedback session Johnston’s office sponsored, where he heard lots of questions and lots of concerns. Former State Board of Education member Randy DeHoff stressed a reasonable point that the overall effort really isn’t so bold on reform. He described it fairly as “a lot more money going into a 19th century system.”
At the same time, some supporters of “revenue enhancements” or “increased investments” to K-12 education expressed doubts, insisting that the $1 billion target wasn’t high enough. Johnston talked about internal poll results that showed asking for more money would be fatal to the whole proposition. He framed 2013′s “Grand Bargain” as the vanguard of a longer-term effort.
“What I want to do is make that initial investment and then get a chance for us to track our results and see how we’ve done, and then help us inform the next investment,” the senator assured the crowd of 150 or more. (more…)
The 2012 decline also hit government, where budgetary and labor reforms in places like Wisconsin and Tennessee have taken hold. The inimitable Mike Antonucci, writing at the Education Intelligence Agency, picked apart the numbers to unravel 10 interesting observations, including this pair of gems:
9) If the trends recorded since 2000 continue, by 2051 there will be 8 million union members in the United States – 6.6% of the total workforce – and they will all work for the government.
Three of the five Board seats for Colorado’s largest school district are up for grabs in 2013. One of them is just inviting a challenge. Jeffco school board director Paula Noonan made local headlines for displaying a serious bout of bad judgment:
Jeffco school board member Paula Noonan was arrested during a traffic stop Jan. 8 when Denver police officers became aware of an outstanding warrant from a 2011 traffic ticket.
The 19th century American individualist Ralph Waldo Emerson once famously declared, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” This coming legislative session might just give teachers union leaders a chance to confront their own hobgoblin — choosing whether to embrace it or banish it far away.
Rumors persist that the American Federation of Teachers wants to inflict legislative revenge on the bold Douglas County school board. In exchange for having their monopoly bargaining status and political dues collection revoked, they apparently are tempted to advance a bill that would impose some sort of bargaining requirement on local school boards. To succumb to the temptation would place their Colorado Education Association (CEA) union counterparts in a bind: How would they look having so stridently defended the principle of local control in the recent past?
The frequent and widespread invocation of “local control” under the Golden Dome has grown into a running gag among education lobbyists and committees. Article IX, Section 15 of the Colorado Constitution grants local school boards “control of instruction of the public schools of their respective districts.” But the clause often grows larger than life, with advocates either clinging to or resisting the argument based on the bill before them. (more…)
When a Republican politician speaks competently, compassionately and courageously about real education reform, my ears perk up. When that politician happens to be hailed as one of the GOP’s top contenders for the national ticket in 2016, I also smile optimistically.
Rubio framed the education message in his D.C. award acceptance speech around the goal of opening wide the doors to America’s middle class. A linchpin is his bold proposal to expand educational choice at the federal level in a way that has not really been pursued before: (more…)
For the past couple years, Wisconsin has been the locus of the political battle to weaken public-sector union power. After Gov. Scott Walker not only survived but thrived amid a failed recall election, conservatives breathed a sigh of relief. Most prominently, the costly but decisive victory revived hopes that fiscal sanity and a sense of fairness could be restored.
Modest cuts to lavish benefits for government employees, along with some of the accompanying tools approved in Walker’s controversial Budget Repair Bill, put the Badger State back on a healthy fiscal setting and brought compensation more back in line with private sector workers.
But a new video from the Association of American Educators reminds us that the Wisconsin reforms also promoted professionalism and individual empowerment for teachers. Walker’s state left the ranks of those where union monopoly power feeds off teacher tribute payments. (more…)
It’s funny how so many of those Colorado teachers union deadlines fall at inconvenient times. Want to sign up for one of the Colorado education Association’s local affiliates? You can do it any time. Want to opt out of union membership, perhaps to choose a different membership option? Well, finding the exact dates you can opt out depends on which school district you work in.
For so many, though, it comes at the beginning of the school year as classrooms are being decorated, lesson plans developed, routines established, and so much more. But September 15 passes before you can get down to the local union office — say, in Jeffco, Commerce City, Englewood, Longmont, or Canon City — and you have to wait another 350 days to stop the automatic union dues deduction. That’s about what happened to Denver Public Schools teacher Ronda Reinhardt, who finally was able to take advantage of the two-week November opt-out window after waiting nearly a full year.
But what about the teacher who wants to stick with the $750 or more in NEA/CEA dues per year but maybe doesn’t like the union’s sometimes unseemlypolitical spending habits? Getting the $39, or even $63 (in some locations), back from the Every Member Option means submitting the request just before the Christmas er, winter break at the December 15 deadline. (more…)
This past Saturday many Colorado county political parties held their biennial assemblies for the purpose of approving resolutions and nominating candidates for the primary ballot. For the fifth consecutive time, I attended the Jefferson County Republican Assembly as a voting delegate. The new and spacious Lakewood church venue was needed, with more than 1,200 certified delegates in attendance.
The strong turnout was most impressive in terms of first-time delegates, which an impromptu show of hands revealed made up somewhere around two-thirds of those attending north Jeffco’s Senate District 19 assembly. Similar anecdotes and reports from other districts suggest the large-scale infusion of fresh grassroots political blood was a countywide phenomenon. Not a good sign for the Obama administration from a major swing county in a major swing state.
How that translates to the local county and state legislative races remains to be seen. But the fact that so many showed up to participate in the process on a beautiful Colorado weekend when virtually every race to be determined was uncontested (though getting to hear of County Commissioner John Odom‘s rock-solid fiscally conservative principles and his lighthearted “The Bald Truth” campaign theme idea were a highlight) — well, it speaks volumes.
The only exception of a contested race was House District 22 in south Jeffco, where my conservative friend Justin Everett bested Loren Bauman 58 to 42 percent. The rules of the game state that a candidate must earn at least 30 percent to win a spot on the June 26 primary ballot, or else try to collect signatures to petition on. As a result of the assembly outcome, Everett’s name will appear on the ballot’s top line. From the campaign press release: (more…)
Last week I filmed a 14-minute segment with my boss at the Independence Institute, Jon Caldara, on his show Devil’s Advocate. The topic for discussion was the timely news that members of the Colorado Education Association (CEA) have until tomorrow (December 15)to get back money automatically collected with their dues to support (almost completely one-sided) state and local political campaigns.
As I often say, if you like how the union spends your money on politics, you have no reason to complain and absolutely nothing to do. But for those teachers who would rather support their own political causes, or use the money to pay for Christmas shopping or just save for a rainy day, then members need to be informed of their opportunity. One way to find out how to get the Colorado teachers union political refund is to watch the video:
In the episode Jon describes the notifications about teacher options as my personal charity work — the kind of charity work where one gets called nasty names. So be it. In the last-minute rush before the holidays, and tomorrow’s all-important December 15 deadline, here’s hoping this post makes the difference for someone out there.
Disappointing news in my own backyard of Jefferson County, where the reform, Republican-backed “Dads” ticket of Jim Powers and Preston Branaugh were defeated. In my mind, though, the story of the night has to be in Douglas County — where a unanimous majority in favor of the nation’s first school board-initiated voucher-like program appears headed for complete electoral vindication. Other lesser-touted school board results of note: (more…)
Colorado has one issue on the statewide ballot this year: Proposition 103, a large tax hike sold as a way to increase revenues for K-12 and higher education. Unfortunately, there are two major problems with this proposal that render it unworthy of support.
Complaints that public education spending in Colorado has been slashed in recent years conveniently ignore the big picture. Ben DeGrow at the Independence Institute reports that total annual expenditures on K-12, adjusted for inflation, from 1999 to 2010 have increased by $3.2 billion or 46 percent. Per pupil spending is up 24 percent. There’s little to show for it in the way of results.
In my official capacity at the Independence Institute, I helped to create this newly-released video (narration by Mary MacFarlane, editing and production by Justin Longo, consulting and oversight by Jon Caldara and Pam Benigno):
As my juvenile alter ego at Ed Is Watching pointed out:
…it’s a story like 13-year-old Nate Oakley’s that brings to life the need for Douglas County vouchers, and the real threat created by lawsuits filed by the ACLU and other groups.
Leading 19th century American politician James Blaine had a Catholic mother; therefore
The Blaine Amendment he crafted into the state constitutions of Colorado and numerous others were bastions of modern “secular” thought promoting the separation of church and state, as understood by the ACLU and its compatriots; therefore
Republicans in the 1800s were much more secular and enlightened than their contemporary counterparts; and
Forget the fact that parents are given a choice, the Douglas County school board is funneling money to religious schools in violation of a benign state constitutional provision.
Really? Bad history may make for clever political potshots, but beyond that it has little practical use. The leading flaw in Quillen’s column is a fundamental (and willful?) misunderstanding of 19th century American public education — which was “nondenominational” Protestant but clearly not secular as the columnist imagines. (more…)
A number of other states have laws mandating that negotiations between government-employee unions and government agencies be open to the public. In Colorado, that decision is currently left to local government. Colorado law is generally friendly to public openness and disclosure regarding government meetings and documents. Since a majority of funding for public-school districts in Colorado comes not from local property taxes but from the state’s coffers, the state legislature clearly has standing to join other states in passing a uniform law opening these kinds of negotiations to the light of public scrutiny.
As I reported in my 2010 Independence Institute issue backgrounder “Colorado Education and Open Negotiations,” six states currently have laws on the books guaranteeing this brand of taxpayer-friendly government transparency. In Colorado you have to go back to 2005 for Senate Bill 175 and to 2004 for House Bill 1242, the legislature’s last serious (and in the case of 1242, nearly successful) attempts to shine light on negotiations between governments and unions. With momentum growing locally around this issue, might Colorado lawmakers try this approach again? (more…)