Let’s face it: the State Board of Education is way off most people’s radar. Even some highly politically-tuned people who know the names of their state representative and state senator couldn’t tell you much about the Board, let alone the name of one person on it.
Nevertheless, the Rocky Mountain News issued its endorsements of State Board candidates today.
Well, here’s the quick skinny for the uninitiated: the State Board of Education has a variety of supervisory duties over the state’s public school system. A Board can do many things to support critical education reforms, such as charter schools and online education. Currently, the Board is made up of 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans – one from each Congressional District and an additional at-large seat that will be phased out in 2007. That means one party or the other will seize a majority.
The at-large seat is held by Democrat Jared Polis, and two of the three seats up for election this November are also held by Democrats. This means the Democrats have to win all three races to take over the Board and hand the keys over to their friends in the Education Establishment, such as the Colorado Education Association. One Democrat, Evie Hudak, is unopposed for re-election.
But the other two races drew the Rocky‘s attention today. Former Congressman Bob Schaffer, whose campaign cleverly is being run by school children, rightfully won the newspaper’s high praise (and his opponent gladly didn’t even get a mention):
Schaffer is a strong supporter of charter schools, and more generally of parental choice in education. He thinks schools are burdened by too much bureaucracy and too many mandates, and believes the state board should work with the legislature to identify those that can be eliminated or streamlined so more money will reach the classroom. We’re not sure how far he’ll get, but it’s a job worth tackling.
In our own 7th District, Republican Lee Kunz won high praise, yet the Rocky strangely couldn’t pull the trigger and endorse him:
In the 7th Congressional District, in a close call, we favor incumbent Democrat Karen Middleton, who was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2004, over Republican challenger Lee Kunz. This election is for the final two years of the term.
Kunz is a strong candidate in his own right, a teacher and coach for many years who is an advocate for more parental choice, early education and higher and more specific state standards. He described himself as “a huge fan of Core Knowledge,” a demanding curriculum that is popular with many parents.
There is, however, no compelling reason to dump Middleton, who also has a strong background in education.
No compelling reason? I guess that depends on your definition of compelling. I’m sure Karen is an upstanding person, but if the Rocky is to remain consistent with its support of various education reforms, there is no reason not to endorse Lee Kunz.
For me, it boils down to this: Karen’s votes overwhelmingly have not been supportive of charters, school choice, and parental rights. Lee’s votes will be much different.
The State Board of Education may have been off your political radar for a long time, but 2006 would be a good time to take note of the importance of these two races. Tell your friends in northern Colorado to vote for Bob Schaffer, and those in the metro Denver area’s 7th District to vote for Lee Kunz.