In the world of K-12 education politics, when you are trying to do something right and shake up the status quo a little bit, it’s very hard to avoid flak. And anyone running for local school board deserves careful scrutiny. But when silly rumors start flying and supposedly serious news agencies report them, I suppose it’s time for someone else to step up and take on the challenge. Hey, no problem: I’m used to being called silly names by teachers unions.
In case you’re not aware, I’m talking about the upcoming elections for Douglas County Board of Education, an area south of metro Denver for the uninitiated. The story begins last December when the local teachers union — affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers — endorsed and gave money to four Board candidates (including two incumbents), one in each of the competing districts. (See the document at the bottom for screenshots of campaign finance reports.)
Then the local Republican Party endorsed four other Board candidates (including one incumbent) to challenge them. So why do we act shocked that Republicans representing parents and taxpayers in conservative Douglas County opt to back candidates other than the ones financed by the teachers union?
Maybe because it’s not terribly common to see those bound together by their support for parental choice, charter schools, high academic standards, financial transparency, and accountability — agenda items to which union leaders generally are not favorable — try to get a little organized.
But just exactly why did the highly-respected Ed News Colorado team report the story so breathlessly yesterday?
Because of the reactionary backlash from status quo-friendly forces. Worse, though, why did Ed News Colorado re-publish an unsubstantiated rumor about the Republican-backed candidates — a rumor with its only known origins in the diary of a liberal Colorado Pols blogger? (The same diary also falsely asserted that the Colorado League of Charter Schools is supporting the candidates, which it has not done and cannot legally do.)
According to a Douglas County source, at least three of the Republican-backed candidates also received a call from the Denver Post‘s Jeremy Meyer asking about the rumor, which they obviously refuted as the figment of someone’s imagination.
But as I noted at the beginning, the flak will fly — including in the form of rumor and innuendo — when taxpaying citizens form a credible challenge to established interest groups in the K-12 system. In this case, the interest group of course is the AFL-CIO member American Federation of Teachers, which has given money not only to its slate of four endorsed candidates but also to a new 527 group called Accountability for Kids.
Registered agent for the 527 group is Heather Atkinson, who worked as recently as this spring for Carolyn Siegel’s Denver lobbying firm. You may recognize Siegel’s name as one of the alleged Colorado Democracy Alliance insiders — specifically, her name is listed on the infamous memo next to “AFL-CIO public relations -educate the idiots”.
But in any case, Siegel is the former AFL-CIO political director. With Atkinson on board, we’ll have to watch closely to see if the 527 “Accountability for Kids” will be collecting union political contributions from all over the state (and other states, too?). The automatic dues of construction workers, pipefitters, heat insulators, and service employees being redirected to fund a school board race far away.
Now there’s a side of the story that would be interesting to cover, too. But maybe the story of union-backed school board candidates is too passe and commonplace. Unless I came up with an unsubstantiated rumor of my own about the AFT or its chosen candidates, local media outlets would work diligently to track it down. That would get traction, right? Nah, never mind, I don’t want to play that game….