Last election, the national GOP, for the first time, spent party money in local school board elections in Colorado. As a result, the board was populated by school choice and voucher advocates.
Tonight, last year's spending paid off. The school board put forth what can't even be considered a half-assed effort to pass a bond/mill levy to maintain school funding in the county. It, predictably, failed to pass.
I'm trying, with much difficulty, to maintain a bit of objectivity as I write this, because it's very personal. The bond's failure means that my wife, along with every other elementary art, music, and PE teacher and every elementary librarian will lose their jobs at the end of the year.
EDIT - (I'm sorry that this isn't organized well and that it devolved into a cuss-fest at the end. Feel free to skip the last three paragraphs.)
So, immediately, the irony is thick. Months of harping about jobs boils down to one poignant moment in which the actions of the GOP speak much louder than their words. They are not worried about job creators or even creating jobs. This much we already knew. They are, quite obviously, concerned only with dismantling the public framework that we, as a nation, have spent the last 225 years building. Education, social programs...whatever it may be.
A bit of background:
As Colorado has fallen into economic doldrums, along with the rest of the nation, funding for education has dried up. We were especially effected because our state constitution includes an amendment called TABOR - the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights - that prevents the state legislature from raising taxes without a popular vote. The Colorado Supreme Court has carved out some exceptions to TABOR and the people have voted for some broad exceptions, but, for the most part, if Colorado wants to raise revenues, it has to go to the people. TABOR was initially championed by Colorado's OG Tea-Partier, Douglas Bruce. Beyond what I happen to think about the man, personally, (I think he's a self-serving blowhard) he is also currently under indictment for tax evasion. Because of TABOR, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper had no choice but to cut K-12 education funding by over $300 million. With increased operating costs, this left school districts, including Douglas County, scrambling for cash.
Douglas County initially responded with the usual ideas. They considered increasing class sizes, cutting bus service, and furlough days. They wanted to cut teacher salaries while paying the superintendent the highest salary of any school administrator in the state. And, Douglas County teachers have already been on a voluntary, union-supported pay freeze for the last five years. That may be part of why it hurts so much when commenters in articles about the bond issue on local news websites call teachers "leaches" and accuse them of freeloading on the public teet.
instead of focusing on the infrastructure and personell that have made Douglas County one of the top school districts in the state, the board decided to push for a new voucher program that is so popular that it is currently enjoined by the Denver District Court because it shuttles public money to private and religious schools.
With their previous plans to destroy the public education system in Douglas County foiled, the board cooked up something more devious. They asked for a bond and mill levy. Normally, this is a rather usual way to raise revenues in a county. The bond itself is not devious. Rather, the conditions attached to it are.
If the bond had passed, the entire district was going to a pay-for-performance system, requiring teachers to spend hours every week collecting student and parent surveys. Potential for great bonuses, you say? The teachers are required to have 98% approval ratings from both students and parents to get a bonus. On what planet do you think that's remotely attainable. The board put almost no effort into getting votes, even leading a right-wing commenter on a local news site to cry conspiracy: he hadn't heard about the bond issue and thought the board was selectively promoting it only to people who would vote for it.
Now that the bond has failed, and everyone knew it would, the true goal of the Douglas County School Board is revealed. The mill levy, according to an internal document, included money to "keep electives/specials." The union sent a message to all of its members saying that the cuts required to balance the school budget could include art, music, PE, library, technology, middle and high school electives, counselors, support staff, and teachers.
The committee that the board hired to promote the bond and mill levy issued a statement saying that without passing both ballot issues, the district would have to cut specials - art, music, and PE.
The overwhelming feeling Douglas County teachers had tonight, as the elections closed and it became obvious that the bond a mill levy had failed, was one of depression. After five years of sacrifice for the children of Douglas County, teachers feel like they've been gutted and left to bleed out in the streets of Parker, CO. The residents of the county don't support them or are too stupid to see through the haze of talking points they've been fed. Even the parents that these teachers see every day, who get daily reports from their kids about how school went, can't make the connection between the "teachers" they hate and the people they've befriended. They don't see that the votes they cast for the GOP jobs program - tax cuts! job creators! feed the rich! - are in fact killing jobs on which the future of America depends. The vote tonight eliminated at least 180 jobs next school year, including my wife's.
Right now, my wife is alternating between crying and looking for a Republican to punch. Beyond the pain of believing she won't be able to pursue a passion in teaching, she feels the pain of betrayal. She has given so much to the kids of Douglas County. She works 13 hour days, teaching, planning lessons, leading student clubs, decorating the school with student art. The budget cuts of the last five years have already increased class sizes and eliminated a lot of the support staff that teachers rely upon on a daily basis. On top of this, her school happens to be the magnet school for the special needs kids in the district and each of these kids get mainstreamed into her art classroom. The lack of aids make teaching a class of 35 impossible when the special needs kids misbehave. For the first time, she's talking about getting out of public education. My mother-in-law retired from a 32-year career at a neighboring district last year and is ecstatic that she did.
All of this only supports what we've believed for a long time. The GOP is trying and, unfortunately, succeeding at destroying public education. They're creating conditions that drive the best, most passionate teachers out of careers because they simply can't survive.
And now, I devolve into mudslinging.
Fuck you GOP. Fuck you like Gaddafi after the rebels caught him. You talk about taking America back? Little progressive tax increases cost you a couple of hundred dollars a year. GOP policies cost people their jobs and their lives. Education, health care, social security - these are the things that make us a good society and they cost money.
Suck it up yourselves, assholes. Contribute to the country that provided the platform for your success (for those of you that actually have it - some of you are cutting yourself off at the knees, idiots). Or, move to a country that openly supports oligarchy and let's see how long your tax savings can keep the local warlord away.