Archive for the 'Education Politics' Category

25th 2015
Top Secret School Board Candidate Briefing Materials Declassified

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & events & School Board

Last night, the Education Policy Center team finished the last of its five school board candidate briefings at the Independence Institute in Denver. This year’s briefings have garnered a fair amount of attention from anti-reform folks, including some pretty interesting conspiracy theories.

I am pleased to report that after talking it over with their evil right-wing overlords, the Ed Center’s staff members have been cleared to make the materials given to candidates publicly available. Not that they were really secret anyway; every school board candidate in the state was invited to the briefings regardless of his or her political opinions. All interested candidates had to do was sign a non-disclosure agreement, forfeit their firstborn children, submit to a lie detector test, and swear fealty to the Almighty Koch Brothers. No biggie, right?

Now, though, everyone can see these top secret materials without having to go through all that stuff. Admittedly, that isn’t terribly fair to the candidates who had to directly endure the aforementioned requirements–particularly those who went through our patented microchip implantation process. But I strongly suspect that others will find the information valuable, and the Education Policy Center is all about providing valuable information to those who need it.

I doubt the written materials will live up to the conspiratorial hype surrounding them, but that’s alright. Maybe the big, scary video (embedded below) featuring 24-year Jeffco teaching veteran Michael Alcorn’s advice for board members will make up for the anti-climactic shock of combing through a 40-page education policy document looking for secret codes that don’t exist.

One last note before I leave you to enjoy the video: There will be no Little Eddie posts next week. I know, I know. You’ll just have to do your best to contain your disappointment. See you in a couple weeks!

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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 »


11th 2015
Independence Institute “Indoctrinates” CO School Board Candidates with Helpful Policy Information

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & School Board & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

It’s hard to believe it’s Friday again. I’ve been scurrying around the Independence Institute office helping my policy friends get ready for their first of five 2015 Colorado School Board Candidate Briefings. This one was held in Loveland, Colorado, last night. Attendees received a presentation on Colorado education policy, and had a chance to ask questions of the policy folks. It was a great time!

But as my friend Ross Izard points out in a recent Greeley Tribune op-ed, Loveland is now ground zero for one of the most important education fights in the state. That means anti-reform forces north of the big city are busy shouting at the top of their lungs about the evils of education reform. Nowhere is that panicked shrieking more evident than on the Thompson School District Reform Watch Facebook page, which is absolutely stuffed with some of the most creative conspiracy theories I’ve ever seen.

Somewhat ironically given the page’s frequent complaints about a lack of transparency, the operators have chosen to remain anonymous. Hey, that’s their right. But because I like to talk the talk and walk the walk, feel free to check out the About Eddie page here on Ed is Watching if you’d like to learn more about me and the grown-ups who help me write these posts.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Among the Reform Watch page’s most recent posts are a number of pokes at the Loveland school board candidate briefing last night. Below are a few of my favorite snippets from posts over the last couple of days (screen captured just in case they get deleted):

The Independence Institute Saga continues…with holding regular seminars and training sessions, sometimes to unsuspecting and gullible citizens and candidates. As with their sister group, the Leadership Program of the Rockies, they are Americans for Prosperity, Friedman, KOCH and ALEC all rolled into one.

Last night the II was in Loveland with their Reform School Board Candidate Training Program. We are trying to get information on who all was in attendance at the Chop House for this event. The rumor mill has named some very interesting people who are not from the TSD communities. (See our Eye Opener post on Sep. 9th for the details of what these sessions are all about). We also know that the TSD candidates were invited.

When you take a look at the II website, remember that you are reading from the Americans for Prosperity Manual. At first, it may look good, but as they say “The Devil is in the Details”. Beware!! 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 »

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2nd 2015
Despite Union Statements, National Polls Show Public Support for Testing

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Research & Testing

About this time last year, I was puzzling over the presence of a strange phantom statistic quoted by NEA in the wake of the annual PDK/Gallup national education poll. The statistic was eventually released weeks after the rest of the poll, which means NEA didn’t lie about it. They did, however, get special access to an unverifiable number that happened to support their very strong push against evaluation systems that include student growth. No one can easily refute poll results without, you know, having the poll results, so NEA got some good mileage out of that one.

But there’s no use crying over spilled statistics. Besides, the main reason I was interested in that number in the first place was the fact that it stood in stark contrast with data gathered by another nationally representative poll conducted by Education Next—data showing clear public support for the use of student performance when making teacher tenure decisions. This year, though, the polls appear to mostly agree with one another on testing issues. Not that NEA or AFT are very keen on sharing that fact.

The 2015 version of the annual Education Next poll and its associated report have been in the wild for some time now. The PDK/Gallup results have also been released. I strongly encourage you to dig through both polls, as there is very interesting stuff in each, much of which is broken out by subgroups that show important (and illuminating) differences. Highlights include some fascinating data on declining support for Common Core, as well interesting insights into the role the federal government ought to have in education. But perhaps the most interesting results of the polls have to do with public support for testing. Continue Reading »

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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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28th 2015
Jeffco Union Prez Wants “Big Lift”; For Kids’ Sake, How About Some Peace?

Posted under Education Politics & learning & School Board & Teachers & Union

The school year is underway for nearly all Colorado kids. That includes all students in Jeffco Public Schools. Let’s calm down the heat and focus on a successful school year then, right? I sure hope so, but one group seems to be throwing a wrench into the situation.

Last night the Jeffco Board of Education “unanimously approved an agreement with the teachers union that governs how educators are hired, fired and paid.” We’re talking about a much better, leaner, more flexible union contract than the previous one — as my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow explained on Complete Colorado yesterday.

(Don’t tell Ben, but I learned something he didn’t. About the new salaries they agreed to: Because of the way the two sides agreed to fix the pay system to make it fairer, about 1,400 Jeffco teachers — more than one-quarter — come home with big take-home raises in 2015. This, after last year 99 percent of teachers got a salary boost, including 4.25 percent raises for highly effective educators. A total of $20 million this board has ADDED to teacher compensation.)

Beyond the pay increases, the contract opens the door to more important decisions made at the school level, more value on performance over seniority, more fairness and options for teachers, and maybe best of all: Teacher strike averted!

This is the same agreement the Denver Post hailed as a “good agreement” because “both sides aren’t fully happy.” It contains some positive developments for district teachers, and generally is less restrictive. So time to move onward and upward, to focus on excellence in classrooms and school buildings, to strive for more and better learning? Not so fast. Continue Reading »

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27th 2015
Respected Voices Highlight Importance of Reform Battles in Jeffco, Thompson

Posted under Education Politics & School Board

Yesterday, we took a look at a major school choice flub in the new PDK/Gallup national education poll. I was all set to offer some further comments on that poll this morning, but we’ll have to come back to that. Today we’ve got important stuff like the hugely important fights over local education reform in Jeffco and Thompson to talk about.

I got a little worked up last week thinking about the criticality of the education reform battles in Jeffco and Thompson. Yet I was long ago categorized as a five-year-old ideologue, so it’s easy enough for reform opponents to write me off by pointing out that my father is Charles Koch, or that I was born in a petri dish in a secret underground lab know only to members of the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Neither of which I can confirm or deny, of course.

Now, though, more and more mainstream folks are beginning to talk about the significance of these two districts. Two pieces in particular stood out to me this morning during my daily romp through the news. Continue Reading »

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19th 2015
Thompson, Jeffco, and the Battle for the Soul of Colorado Education

Posted under Education Politics & Union

I’m not exactly a fortune teller, but every now and then I surprise myself with my prescience. Last May, I wrote a post just before Thompson’s second vote on an only slightly revised version of the first junky tentative agreement brought back from the negotiating table. The post was called “Thompson Gears up for the Final (?) Battle.” It turns out that question mark meant more than I knew back then.

The teachers union is many things, but timid is not among them. Still, I was legitimately surprised to see the tenacity with which they have opposed the Thompson reform majority’s attempts to make very reasonable changes to the district’s union contract—particularly because their bigger, meaner, more powerful cousin in Jeffco seems perfectly capable of making compromises. Well, other than that whole strike threat thing. While JCEA was busy actually negotiating, TEA was dragging the district into expensive non-binding arbitration proceedings and arguing that they don’t have a right to reject a tentative agreement with which they disagree under the current contract’s “good faith” provision.

Poppycock, you say. Colorado school boards have constitutional authority to exercise local control over their districts, and no statute requires a school board to even recognize a union in the first place. In fact, 140 of Colorado’s 178 school districts have no recognized union at all (you can find a full list of unionized districts here). You’re right, and the arbitrator agrees with you. Sort of. CEA, on the other hand, thinks you’re dead wrong. Continue Reading »


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