Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Conservative Koch-backed school board ousted
The school board in a wealthy suburban county west of Denver was recalled Tuesday despite getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from the Koch brothers and winning the endorsement of the Denver Post.
Three members who had been able to decide issues on the five-member Jefferson County board were recalled by nearly two thirds of the voters, KUSA TV reported. About 150,000 votes were cast. So much for evangelical brainwashers who want to rewrite not only science but history.
"I believe we sent a crystal clear message tonight to reformers and their supporters (e.g., Americans for Prosperity and the Koch Brothers). The election results we are experiencing in Jefferson County, Douglas County and Thompson all show that our public schools are not for sale! We expect transparency, respect, fiscal responsibility, and most of all, collaboration from our elected officials," said recall organizer Tina Gurdikian.
Charter schools, which have become a favorite of conservatives who want to make religion a part of the curriculum, was a major issue. They are an issue across the country.
Opponents say they take tax money from public schools.
Jefferson County has a virtually equal number of Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated.
Tuesday’s vote could be another sign that evangelical and far-right conservatives are out of touch with the majority of Americans.
Republican state Sen. Tim Neville, seeking to oust Democrat Michael Bennet from the U.S. Senate, told Al Jazerra:" It's for the control of our future as a country. It is going to be relating to the presidential election.” Al Jazeera
Critics of the three recalled members said they held closed meetings, wasted money, and were focusing too much attention on charter schools and driving good teachers from the county. They also had supported performance-based teacher pay, a favorite of conservatives who oppose unions.
"The citizens of Jefferson County said enough is enough. This is a non-partisan position," said Ali Lasell, who was elected to the new board. "We need to restore respect back in that boardroom. And that's what going to happen," she told ABC Denver.
Opponents of the recall got $500,000 from conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, founded by Charles G. and David H. Koch, the New York Times reported.
The Koch group was attempting to organize recalls in other states.
Nothing is dearer to the heart of conservatives than making pro life and same-sex teaching the core of education.
They also seek to incorporate patriotism, minimizing references to social strife and civil disorder. It reached such a level in Jefferson County that thousands of students walked out of classes in last year.
The teacher’s union contributed $15,000 to the $250,000 raised by supporters of the recall.
It became a nasty with death threats on the Internet and pro-recall signs ripped down or vandalized.
“It’s a fight to the death,” Gurdikian had told the Times.
Ballotpedia reported 205 recall efforts since 2006.
Jefferson County is the second-biggest school district in the state with nearly 90,000 students and pupils.
Jeffco School Board Watch issued the following statement:
"Tonight, after two years of Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams obviously answering to outside financiers and ideology, rather than to the real needs of a majority of Jeffco residents, Jeffco voters rejected an advertising onslaught and decided to oust the three of them in a statement heard loud and clear throughout our country.
Although the statement was loud and resonated across the nation, the most important outcomes will be heard in the more hushed tones of classrooms from Westminster to Littleton and from Wheat Ridge to Evergreen, where teachers may once again feel valued and respected, and the students are freed from extremist political agendas.
Beating back a wildly unprecedented $1 million-plus in advertising to prop up the failing WNW, Jeffco voters made a major statement about their independence and the power of real grassroots. Jeffco voters decided that they’d rather do the hard work of struggling through their own differences, rather than be guided by the bankrolled fantasia of strangers and outsiders.
Thousands of parents banded together with students, and yes, teachers, to remove these three from their seats. The narrative that this was all run and manufactured by the teachers’ union was obviously false to anyone that was paying any attention. In the end, the truth won out. Yes, the teachers’ union supported the recall, but that’s an easy call when the actions of the elected officials regularly evoke disdain for the governed. Teachers had been working on pay for performance already in 2013, and had collaboratively taken pay freezes and pay cuts. They are not the monsters that the advertising campaign conjured up, and the majority of voters saw through that false narrative.
There is hard work to do now for our new board. There is a fractured community to unite, and to show that a range of interests and ideas really can be represented through excellent governance, and truly putting kids first.
We have high hopes."