We start off this BoE summer hiatus with what we hope will be a regular round-up of Education news involving JeffCo. We will try to bring to your attention news stories and events over the previous week that impact JeffCo, and if possible, provide some background and context to help you understand the significance of the story.
Several years ago, this would have been pretty easy. A quick search of the local newspapers, TV stations, and a few specialized periodicals would have given us a fairly unbiased synopsis of the education news that week.
Oh, how times have changed!
With the decline of readership and viewership, traditional media sources have severely cut back their education coverage, and what coverage there is seems to be long on oversimplification and short on in-depth explanation. Complicating this is the trend toward ‘independent’ sources that are more mouthpieces for various political organizations, each pushing a very biased ‘unbiased’ viewpoint. There are some truly non-partisan sources out there, but the partisan ones are pretty good at camouflaging themselves to fool quick, cursory looks. So we will do our best to let you know what viewpoint a news source might have. We will also let you know if we find any source to be particularly biased, misleading, or has questionable sanity.
With that, here are the things in the news over the last week that we found worth reading:
Jeffco board OKs general fund on split vote – from co.chalkbeat.org
(Note: Chalkbeat is a nationwide education media organization, focused on education reporting. Each state has it’s own reporting staff. While accused by extremists of pro teacher-bias, the truth is that it publishes stories and editorials from both sides. Reading it will tend to get you angry and pleased with it all in one sitting. It is not so much non-partisan as it is bi-partisan. The reporting on specific events tends to be the most in-depth you will find, picking up things that other media sources miss or discount.)
Our comment on the above article: Chalkbeat is the only reporting source we have found that gave Lori Gillis’s warnings about the future of the Reserve Fund and Capital Infrastructure the attention it deserved. Most of the other reports focused on either the charter school $1.85 million increase increase (increasing the $3.7 million increase to $5.6 million) or the failure to approve $600,000 to expand free, full-day kindergarten. Chalkbeat got to the most critical part right up front – WNW’s spendthrift ways are jeopardizing the financial stability of the District.
Independence Institute leader pushing Amendment to force open teacher negotations. – from the Colorado Statesman
(Note: The Colorado Statesman has been around since 1898. On the whole, it seems fairly unbiased. The reporting is straight forward, although not all of the implications of a story will necessarily be explored. It is still far more in-depth on issues that the Denver Post and Denver TV stations would find too obscure.)
Our comment on the above article: The fact that the Independence Institute, who supports WNW, is behind this automatically makes us want to examine the everything in detail. What seems to be happening here is that Jon Caldera is trying to capitalize on the outrage over DougCo’s excessive use of Executive Sessions. But instead of banning them for how DougCo uses them, to ban them instead only for employee association negotiations. In effect, the I.I. is trying to use the DougCo board behavior as camouflage for a completely separate issue. DougCo does not have Executive Sessions on teacher negotiations…because since they refused to come to an agreement with the teachers three years ago, they do not have any negotiations with them! The concerns over the DougCo Executive Sessions are not about teacher salaries and working conditions, but rather other actions the Board wants to keep hidden.
As it stands now, the contract between JCEA and the District allows for open negotiations if both sides ask for it. Which is what happened this year, although with the blow-back from Witt’s rejection of the proposed contract (before the full Board had even a chance to look at it), may make WNW wish they had not pushed for it.
Bottom line, rather than presenting this honestly, Caldera and I.I. seem to be trying to do a bait and switch with Colorado voters by continuing to confuse and obfuscate their real objectives.
Thompson school board retains superintendent – from Channel 9 News
(Note: Channel 9 News has been reporting on JeffCo off and on all year. For the most part, the reporting is incomplete in many cases, although that may be caused by the deadline of a 10 p.m. news show, and WNW’s penchant for pushing the nastiest surprises to the end of the meetings. We are concerned that Channel 9 seems to frame every controversy involving WNW as a “union issue”. Channel 9 seems to consistently ignore the fact that the opposition to WNW is wide-spread, and even spearheaded by parents and community members. In short, they have a tendency to repeat the WNW spin on any event.)
Our comment on the above article: This story is important for at least three reasons. First of all, Thompson and JeffCo are linked in a number of ways. Both had ‘reform’ majorities elected in low-turnout elections. Both have had vociferous public responses, albeit the Thompson community reacted faster than JeffCo, flooding the Board meeting rooms with people as early as December. That response was in reaction to the second link: Brad Miller. The Thompson Board President was trying to hire Brad Miller the day before Witt brought it up in JeffCo. Famously, the Thompson Board President announced that Miller was already the Board attorney for JeffCo….24 hours before the JeffCo meeting which brought him up for the first time!
In our opinion, Brad Miller is a lot more than someone who ‘organizes the Boards legal documents’. The mere fact that WNW refuse to allow a full discussion of him is enough to generate suspicion. The Miller connection deserves a LOT more investigation. The third link is effort by the ‘reform’ President to get rid of their current Superintendent, Dr. Stan Scheer. This was apparently barely averted, after a public outcry and pressure was brought to bear. It seems that the Thompson Valley Board actually will listen, on occasion, to their community, unlike WNW. We should keep an eye on them, and them on us for clues as to what may happen next.
BJC opposes Colorado voucher plan – from ABP-Religious Herald News
(Note: This is the first time we have come across a relevant article on ABP, formerly the Associated Baptist Press, so we have no inkling of their leanings one way or another. One thing in their favor is that we did not find mention of this legal filing anywhere else!)
Our comment on the above article: The U.S. Constitution specifically states in the First Amendment that Congress shall “make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The Colorado Constitution states in Article 9, Section 7 that “Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever…to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever.”
Seems pretty straight-forward. No public money for religious schools. Of course, McMinimee and the DougCo Board thought otherwise and cooked up a scheme that sure looks and smells like money-laundering. A parent enrolls their child in a ‘virtual charter school’. ‘Virtual’ because it does not exist except as this weird chartered organization set up by DougCo. DougCo then transfers to the school a percentage of the money the District receives from the State for that FTE pupil. The parents let the ‘charter’ school know where they want their child to actually go to school, i.e., a religious school. The ‘charter’ school then cuts a check in the name of the parents to that school for the amount of the funds the District assigned to it. And according to McMinimee, ala kazam presto-chango! The public money sent to private religious institutions is not really ‘public’ because the District’s name is not on the check!
Believe it or not, this is now before the State Supreme Court. A District court ruled a violation of the Colorado Constitution. The Appellate Court ruled it was okay. The Supreme Court should hand down a decision by the end of the summer.
This article is evidence that not all religious organizations see McMinimee’s brainchild as a good thing. As a country and a state, we deliberately separated religion from public funding for very good reasons. All you have to do is look around the world. The vast majority of armed conflicts going on right now are religious in nature. Almost every Western European country has had a religious civil war at one point or another in its history. We have not. The ‘separation of church and state’ is one big reason.
That’s it for this week. If you come across an article you think we should know about, please email it’s URL (link) along with your reasons to us at JeffCoWatch@gmail.com.
Staying aware and informed is one important way we can…