Archive for the 'Courts' Category

12th 2015
Federal Court Voids Intrusive Anti-Choice Order, Makes Me Smile

Posted under Courts & Federal Government & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice

In the recent busy season, there hasn’t necessarily been a lot of different things to tell you about. But the coverage has been thick. And after all that — including everything from telling reformers to keep their chins up to unpacking ugly smear columns — little me is eager, practically desperate, to talk about good news and spread a little cheer.

Yesterday I ran across just such a story that made me smile. I first learned of the big judicial win for Louisiana kids from, of all places, the American Federation for Children:

“Today’s decision is a win for children, especially the more than 7,100 children who rely on the Louisiana Scholarship Program to attend a quality school of their parents’ choice,” said Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel to the American Federation for Children. “The U.S. Department of Justice attempted to play politics and was caught red handed and reprimanded by this Court.”

Bingo. What exactly is the backstory? Well, I’m glad you asked. Continue Reading »

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11th 2015
Ugly Smear Column Tries, Fails to Shove Conservative Education Reform Aside

Posted under Accountability & Courts & Education Politics & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & Private Schools & Privatization & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education & Teachers & Union

I hope you all enjoyed a nice, long break from recent depressing edu-happenings over the last few days. I also hope that your disappointment is tempered by hope for the future. As my friend Ross Izard pointed out in a recent op-ed—and as my dad always says—it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.

I never have figured out who that fat lady is, but I’m pretty positive it isn’t Michael Vaughn, a former DPS spokesperson turned communications director for Education Post. Mr. Vaughn recently wrote a post-election Denver Post op-ed about the fact that “real” reform is winning in Colorado. It’s a rather nasty piece in which he celebrates reform victories in Denver while all but dancing on the graves of conservative education reformers around the state.

When I look at what conservative education reform folks have pushed for over the past few years in Jeffco, Thompson, Dougco, and other districts, I see a long list of meaningful reforms. New curricula, new charter schools, pay-for-performance systems, equal funding for charter students, collective bargaining reform—you name it, it’s there. But that doesn’t seem to qualify as true reform for Vaughn, who instead offers this definition of the term:

I know there’s no tried-and-true definition of reform, but there are generally accepted reform stances: school choice/charter schools; Common Core; annual, federally mandated standardized testing; teacher and school accountability. So let’s see how the losing candidates stand on these issues.

He goes on to hammer Dougco for applying for a State Board of Education Waiver from PARCC testing, taking school choice to “an extreme” with its local voucher program, “busting the union,” and “jamming” policies down teachers’ throats. He then implicitly extends most of those critiques to Jeffco, and adds an astonishingly unsophisticated take on the A.P. U.S. History fiasco that fails to acknowledge the fact that despite Julie Williams’ blunt approach to the situation, conservative concerns about the framework were ultimately validated by the College Board itself.

Sadly, those flubs are far from the worst the column has to offer. Continue Reading »

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5th 2015
Yes, Election Night Happened, But Keep Your Chins Up, Colorado Reformers

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

Yeah, yeah, yeah, school board elections happened in Colorado this week. Ok, so I promised to give you a full report yesterday. But I got a little busy crying in my Cheerios with some important stuff to do.

Do I really need to review what happened with the Teachers Union Empire Strikes Back? After all, my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow donned his Captain Obvious hat for Chalkbeat Colorado, observing “You can’t deny it was a setback for conservative reform at the school board level in Colorado. The unions had their day. There’s no doubt about it.”

Another of my Education Policy Center friends, Ross Izard, did a pretty good job laying it out in more detail. He optimistically notes that conservative education reformers have been bruised, but not beaten by the big recall in Jeffco or setbacks in a number of other districts: Continue Reading »


29th 2015
Look Under the District 38 School Board Campaign Mask

Posted under Accountability & Courts & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Union

The week of Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. I can practically taste the candy in my mouth right now. One of the perks of being a perpetual 5-year-old is the unending chance to go Trick-or-Treat year after year without any sense of self-consciousness or guilt.

It also happens to be nearing the peak of crazy season with school board elections a mere 5 days away. I wish these two simultaneous happenings were just an unhappy coincidence. There’s more than meets the eye, though.

In the past, little yours truly has dressed as Mr. Potato Head and the Incredible Hulk. This time around, I’m going as a Super Secret Ninja Spy. Yet while Halloween-style dress up and make believe is perfectly fine for the younger set, that’s not so much the case when it comes to important races deciding who sits on school boards.

Coming to mind quickly, of course, is the union-backed “Clean Slate” candidates in Jeffco who claim to be independent in the nonpartisan election, while spending nearly two-thirds of all their campaign funds on Mad Dog Mail, “a Florida-based advertising firm that works exclusively with Democrats.”

Meanwhile, up in Thompson, you have incumbent school board member Denise Montagu not reporting $2,500 given by the Colorado Education Association, and then returning the same-sized contribution from another out-of-town teachers union.

A truly prime example can be found, though, in one of the lower profile Board of Education races, in northern El Paso County’s Lewis Palmer School District 38. There, as in a number of districts this year, some reform-minded candidates are opposing candidates who are more closely connected with the K-12 establishment. Continue Reading »

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9th 2015
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Jeffco’s Ken Witt Pokes Recall Advocates

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Journalism & School Board

Friday Fun Day has arrived yet again. I don’t have super-secret materials to share or an inspiring video to show you today. But I do have something pretty darn entertaining: A school board reformer in Jeffco calling the bluff of recall proponents in Jeffco by filing a complaint against… himself.

Yes, that’s right. Tired of accusations that the board majority members have violated state sunshine laws, Jefferson County Board of Education President Ken Witt filed an ethics complaint against himself with the Colorado Ethics Commission. In his words:

This recall election will cost the district between $100,000-$200,000. That’s money that won’t go to our classrooms and our students. They have spent well over $100,000 gathering tens of thousands of signatures. … But not one is brave enough to sign a complaint? Out of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have spent, they couldn’t spend the 49 cents for the stamp to send a complaint? And they accuse us of wasting money.

Continue Reading »

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21st 2015
Colorado Supreme Court Nixes Negative Factor Challenge

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature

We’ve been talking a lot about the courts lately. Between the Dougco voucher decision, the ridiculous silliness going on in Thompson, and Washington’s bizarre decision that charter schools are unconstitutional, there hasn’t been much cause for celebration. I’ll admit to feeling pretty darn frustrated with the courts.

Now, many of the folks on the other side of reform aisle are also experiencing some court-driven frustration after roughly a year of waiting. Today’s 4-3 Colorado Supreme Court decision in Dwyer v. State of Colorado has cemented the legislature’s interpretation of Amendment 23 to the Colorado Constitution and the “Negative Factor” it spawned. Continue Reading »

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17th 2015
Thompson Majority Fights On for Local Control

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Board & Teachers & Union

Most of you probably remember that there’s sort of a thing going on in Thompson School District. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an understatement. In actuality, Thompson now stands alongside Jefferson County as ground zero for one of the most important education battles in Colorado.

More specifically, Thompson has been engaged in an ugly fight with the Thompson Education Association, backed heavily by legal support from the Colorado Education Association, over the reform-minded board majority’s decision not to accept two junky tentative collective bargaining agreements. At the center of that fight is an incredibly important question: Can locally elected school boards be forced to accept union contracts with which they disagree?

The issue has drawn significant attention from around the state, including an editorial from the Denver Post supporting local school boards’ ability to make judgment calls under Colorado law. It has also resulted in a flabbergastingly awful non-binding arbitration report and, more recently, an unprecedented injunction ruling that forces the district to abide by the 2014-15 collective bargaining agreement—an agreement that the board has rejected in one form or another three separate times.

The board majority isn’t giving up, though. Last night, a 4-3 vote gave the district’s legal team the authority to appeal the injunction or pursue other remedies, whatever “other remedies” means in lawyerese. In practice, a favorable ruling on appeal would free the district of the collective bargaining agreement foisted on it by the Larimer County District Court and allow the board to get back to building policies to take care of its teachers in the absence of a union contract. Continue Reading »


10th 2015
Wait, What? Washington Supreme Court Finds Charter Schools Unconstitutional

Posted under Accountability & Courts & Education Politics & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & Union

I’ve got to admit, Little Eddie’s faith in judges’ ability to fairly decide education issues is beginning to fray. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I’ve moved past fraying, and that my confidence has fully fallen apart at the seams like the blanket I’ve been dragging around with me since infancy.

Back in June, the Colorado Supreme Court made a dangerously broad decision to strike down the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program. Not long after that, a retired Colorado Court of Appeals judge handed Thompson School District perhaps the most heavily flawed “legal” document I’ve ever seen after a questionable (and expensive) non-binding arbitration process related to the district’s negotiations with its local teachers union.  Then, a Larimer County District Court judge contorted herself into a logical pretzel in order to force Thompson to abide by the terms of a contract that the board has voted down three separate times in one form or another.  

But as frustrating as judges have been in Colorado this year, our problems are small compared to a jaw-dropping 6-3 Washington Supreme Court decision that charter schools are unconstitutional. I actually had to read that headline twice to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood.

Sadly, I hadn’t. Continue Reading »


31st 2015
ACLU vs. Nevada Families: Another Big Anti-School Choice Case to Wait Out

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits

The Pope is Catholic. The sun rises in the east, and sets in the west. The grass is green, the sky is blue. And certain parties will sue groundbreaking educational choice programs that promise to help give kids more opportunities.

Two months ago, an ACLU-initiated case against the Dougco Choice Scholarship Program prevailed in the short term, while opening the door to a potential major national victory. A few weeks later, a similar program in North Carolina survived a legal assault.

Before that, the ACLU’s efforts to take away tax credits for K-12 scholarship donations was smacked down in New Hampshire, while the union and school board association in case in Florida has stumbled but lives on in the form of distorted arguments about the Sunshine State’s tax credit scholarships. Continue Reading »

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7th 2015
New Reason Foundation Video Explains Important Union-Related SCOTUS Case

Posted under Courts & Teachers & Union

Happy Friday, friends! I’ve written a lot of words this week, and I suspect you all need a bit of a reading break. You know what that means: Video time! Fortunately, the Reason Foundation has provided a great new video that will suit our needs perfectly.

Yesterday, we talked about how much teachers unions dislike being treated like everyone else—particularly when it comes to recruiting and making sales pitches. As it turns out, they are similarly disinclined to allow teachers to get out of funding them in many states, even if those teachers don’t actually belong to a union and would rather not give money to organizations with which they strongly disagree.

Frustrations with teacher tenure protections convinced public school teacher Rebecca Friedrichs that she didn’t want to support the teachers union. Yet she was still forced to pay them a bunch of money through “agency fees” after she opted out of membership. That (rightfully) made her pretty mad, and resulted in a suit against the California Teachers Association challenging the practice. The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case, called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, on the basis of Friedrichs’s 1st Amendment complaint. Here’s her story in her own words:

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