Last night I saw first hand how the Heritage foundation and ALEC are waging their war on public education and our teachers.
In the November election, by very narrow margins, the majority of the membership of the board or education for the Thompson School District in Loveland/Fort Collins Colorado was taken over with the addition of 4 new members, all of whom received money from the Heritage Foundation to run their campaigns.
Upon hearing that the new majority was planning to hire their own lawyer (a firm from Colorado Springs - about 100 miles south of the school district) AND A LOBBYIST approximately 400 people showed up at the board meeting to protest their plan.
At the start of the meeting, the board chair said that the vote on the lawyer was being taken off the agenda, so if people wanted to leave the could. But, since he had used the same technique at the previous meeting to dismiss the public before adding the plan for adding a lawyer, nobody left.
Over 20 people spoke in opposition to taking school funds to get a board lawyer. Speakers included teachers, members of the community, parents of students in our schools, and students. Their concerns included: why is this needed? where will the money come from? why is this board trying to push the ALEC agenda, etc.
4 people spoke in support the boards actions. Their reasons included: 1 person thought that all the people in opposition were teachers who were afraid of change (over half of those in opposition were not teachers as demonstrated when the non-teachers in the audience were asked to stand); one person was there as a proud member of liberty watch (sounds like a Koch funded group); one person was a parent who wanted change (no specifics given); and 1 person apparently thinks that the school district and board are adversaries that need separate representation.
After all public comments were made, one of the minority board members proposed that in light of overwhelming public opposition to the addition of a board lawyer and lobbist that he item be permanently deleted from the agenda. The board chairman's response was simply to say that he must follow the process and it "will come back up".
His refusal to directly address the audience very clearly showed that he has no intent to consider the interests of the district claimed he wanted to represent - he intends to act as an agent for the people who have bought and paid for him.
In this mornings paper, I see a quote from one of these new board members who thinks the solution is that they "need to communicate better with the public". Guess that's what they think they need the lobbyist for.
More to follow as I now plan to attend all school board meetings!
If you are not already watching your local school board and local politics, please start now! This is not a joke or a conspiracy theory - there are strong forces at work to destroy public education in this country.
Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 2:08 PM PT: Thanks to everyone who commented. The battle is continuing with many call in and editorial comments in the Loveland Reporter Herald. I expect things to be quiet through the holidays then heat up after the first of the year.
I have the following info in a comment, below. As a new user, not sure yet if I should be commenting or updating, so I'll do both there.
As for election funding: Refer to multiple editorials and comments in the Loveland Reporter Herald that noted Heritage support for 4 candidates and a complete lack of denial by any of those 4 that it wasn't true. And a correction, only 3 of those 4 in the November 2013 election won. Mr. Bryon lost to Ms. Ward. The combination of the 3 new board members and the current board member Mr. Kerrigan form the set of 4 that I was referring to.
As for pushing the ALEC agenda: Refer to 12/17/2013 Loveland Reporter Herald page A3 for article which references that per the proposed Colorado Springs law firm (Mr. Miller) the weekend after Election Day, "Kerrigan called him to discuss the Innovation Schools Act". If you go to the ALEC website, you will see their draft of Innovation Schools Act legislation. If you go to the Colorado Dept of Education website (http://www.cde.state.co.us/....) you will see the Colorado Innovation Schools Act, passed in 2008, which is basically a copy of the ALEC draft. So, no I don't think ALEC wants school boards to hire lawyers and lobbyists - that would be nonsensical. I think that ALEC is providing the people they are funding to control local school boards with a list of lawyers and lobbyists who have been trained and/or had experience with pushing ALEC goals for school systems.
As for actual actions/comments from the 4 board members that indicate they have more interest in a specific agenda than in best representing the kids, schools, and community of the Thompson District: 1) Kerrigan has had several meetings with the 3 new members of the board, leaving the remaining 3 members out of the loop (again refer to various Reporter Herald articles); 2) After hearing more than 20 members of the community communicate their concerns and questions with his rush to hire his own lawyer, Kerrigan gave ZERO acknowledgement to the 400 citizens at the meeting, no comment or acknowledgement at all - not even a simple thank you for your inputs; 3) On the front page of the 12/19/2013 Reporter Herald, see quote from Donna Rice "Here is a lot of information, and I don't know it either, but it's an exciting potential for our future, and we just need to communicate better with the public." So, if she doesn't know any details how can she know it's an exciting potential and all that's needed is to communicate better with the public? (could that be the plan for the lobbyist?) She also made ZERO reference to taking public comment into consideration.