Ed Quillen’s Argument against Douglas County Vouchers Flunks U.S. History

In yesterday's Denver Post Perspective section, hoary-bearded columnist Ed Quillen further expounded on his ignorance of 19th century American history, with particular venom directed at the Douglas County Choice Scholarship program. Under the almost-witty headline of "Thou shalt smite vouchers" Quillen takes a leap of faith that goes something like this (I'd insert a direct quote or two but am not interested in attracting the costly legal animus of Righthaven): 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 … [Read more...]

Louisiana Seeks to Beat Colorado to Open Teacher Union Negotiations

A lot has happened in the month since I last posted here about the open negotiations controversy in Jeffco Public Schools. I was glad to see Mike Rosen bring attention to the issue on his show and in his May 12 Denver Post column, in which he concluded: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 … [Read more...]

Memo to Colorado Lawmakers: Collective Bargaining in Government Different than in Private Business

Slipping under the radar late in Colorado's legislative session (sine die is tomorrow, hallelujah!) is House Bill 1320 -- sponsored by two conservative Republicans, Rep. Janak Joshi and Sen. Bill Cadman -- a rare two-page piece of legislation that would essentially outlaw collective bargaining in state and local governments. It's not going to pass, and concerned citizens and political observers rightfully are paying attention to Colorado's redistricting debate instead, so it's not worth expending too many pixels. However, I found the apparent reason for HB 1320 being held up on the House floor a bit disheartening -- albeit not surprising, given the unimpressive record of the new Republican majority:Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West, … [Read more...]

FOX 31 FAIR AND BALANCED ON EDUCATION? We Report, You Decide Part Three

Originally posted at Colorado Peak Politics. Re-posted here with permission. As author, I am solely responsible for the content. On FOX 31 last night, political reporter did a sit-down with Governor John Hickenlooper for one of the School Cuts 101 series segments. The result? Unremarkable. Hick has been focused on budget issues, rightly so, and education reform barely shows up on his radar screen. Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia is the administration's point-man on education issues. Last week at the Capitol he presented the three-point education agenda. Finding money to implement SB 191 -- last year's significant teacher and principal evaluation bill -- is a worthy cause. But tackling the state's serious 3rd grade literacy shortcomings by … [Read more...]

FOX 31 FAIR AND BALANCED ON EDUCATION? We Report, You Decide Part Two

Originally posted at Colorado Peak Politics. Re-posted here with permission. As author, I am solely responsible for the content. I know the timing is impossible for it to be true, but you'd almost think my first School Cuts 101 response piece triggered some interest from the FOX 31 team with my cryptic closing:Anyway, looking for real ideas for how to make education spending more productive and promote better outcomes for students? One good place to start is my chapter on K-12 for the Independence Institute's Citizens' Budget. Or check out what Colorado school districts like Douglas County and Falcon 49 are up to. More on that later... [emphasis added] In hindsight, we're probably just on the same wavelength. Or maybe it's impossible … [Read more...]

FOX 31 FAIR AND BALANCED ON EDUCATION? We Report, You Decide

Originally posted at Colorado Peak Politics. Re-posted here with permission. As author, I am solely responsible for the content. Local FOX 31 Denver News and reporter Eli Stokols are to be commended for wanting to look at the effects of K-12 education spending cuts and innovative ideas for addressing the challenge. But the first edition of the televised series cries out for context and correction. First of all, it's important to stress that yes, for the past couple years Colorado schools have been experiencing real budget cuts -- after years of steady increases in per-pupil funding. And of course, the cuts will have an impact, albeit an impact that can be heavily mitigated and overcome in the long run by re-thinking how our school system … [Read more...]

Seeking Transparency in Jeffco Teachers Union Negotiations

Update IV, 5:15 PM: For the record and for the sake of full disclosure -- yes, the information related to open negotiations that I have requested from Jeffco Public Schools has been done in my professional capacity as a senior policy analyst for the Independence Institute. My personal and professional opinions happen to be in very close harmony on this issue. And both versions of the recording -- the low-quality one I deleted and the higher-quality one linked just below -- came from a concerned citizen who attended and recorded the public meeting. Thankfully, because the district's recording of the relevant part of the meeting was not posted due to the aforementioned "system error." Update III, 3:40 PM: I have obtained a better 5-minute … [Read more...]

Aurora Citizens Denied: Colorado Springs Not State’s Only Front in Push for Open Government Negotiations

In a time when a large fiscally conservative grassroots movement like the Tea Parties have developed a strong voice, we shouldn't be surprised to see calls for greater transparency in government operations. Not only when it comes to the fiscal ledger ("if you can't defend it, don't spend it"), but also when it comes to those union negotiations that drive so much of government spending. Should any government contract negotiations be done behind closed doors? Why should unions be treated any differently? In Colorado Springs a citizen lawsuit has pressured one of the state's largest school districts to concede to opening up one teachers union bargaining session to public observation. (Decisions on future sessions pending... most likely on … [Read more...]