A Colorado school board election is burning up millions in campaign cash

When was the last time you voted in a school board election where you live? Do you even remember? One has to wonder how much normally gets spent in actual campaign costs for that sort of a race. The cost of making copies of fliers to staple to phone polls and cards to hand out at the local fireman’s field days has to be taken into account, of course. Perhaps buying a few rounds of free beers at the local watering hole. What’s that all add up to? Well, if you’re in Jefferson County, Colorado, the price tag is apparently over a million bucks. (Washington Post)

When voters cast ballots Tuesday in a school board race in suburban Denver, it will mark the climax of a two-year battle over public education that has reverberated well beyond the Rockies.

Spending on the school board election in Jefferson County, Colo., is expected to top $1 million, with money pouring in from Americans for Prosperity, the national organization founded by the Koch brothers, as well as a libertarian think tank and teachers unions.

The contest is actually a recall election, with activists trying to kick out three conservative members who won seats in 2013, becoming the majority power block on the five-member board.

“This is not a school board race, this is a proxy war,” said Jon Caldara, the president of the libertarian Independence Institute in Denver, which wants to keep the three conservatives in power. “This is a proxy war between education reform and union power.”

Two seats on the school board are being vacated and the three conservative members who were elected in 2013 are all facing a recall. Americans for Prosperity has jumped into the battle and they are being met by the unions, with everyone throwing a ton of money into the race. And remember… this is all for the school board.

The brouhaha erupted after Julie Williams, Ken Witt and John Newkirk took their seats on the board. They showed up with all sorts of crazy ideas which had the teachers union in an uproar in no time flat.They put a merit pay system in place which would award bonuses to teachers based on how well their students performed, not just on the tenure system and how long they’ve been on the job. They also leveled school funding so charter schools could play on a competitive field with the traditional public schools. Like I said… really controversial stuff.

Perhaps the biggest kerfuffle which the union jumped on was a request to review the student AP History course material to ensure that it was sufficiently patriotic.

The College Board, which administers exams to students upon the completion of AP courses, revised the history curriculum in ways that have angered conservatives, who say it paints a darker picture of the country’s heritage and undervalues concepts such as “American exceptionalism.”

The revised AP history curriculum adds two periods: life in the Americas from 1491 to 1607, which addresses the conflicts between Native Americans and European settlers, and from 1980 to the present, which includes the rise of social conservatism and the battles over issues such as abortion, as well as the fight against terrorism after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and demographic and economic shifts of the 21st century.

Newkirk, Witt and Williams wanted to set up a new committee to review the curriculum with the goal of assuring that courses — in the words of Williams — “present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage” and “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system.”

They didn’t even wind up changing the course, but it apparently put all the liberals off their feed to the point that recall fever was soon running rampant. And tomorrow they will go to the polling places and see if they can boot the evil conservatives out before they ruin the union’s good time. With more than a million dollars sunk into the race it should be instructive to say the least.