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Anti-Devos rally makes no secret of rift within Dem ranks over education reform

Author: Dan Njegomir - July 20, 2017 - Updated: July 20, 2017

Democrats, teachers and teachers union supporters rally Wednesday at the Capitol against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (Photo via Colorado Education Association)

A mass-email from the Colorado Education Association Wednesday included a play-by-play account of that morning’s protest and rally at the Capitol denouncing Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s visit to Denver. So, even those who weren’t able to attend still got a feel for the event. And one of the feelings that was easy to pick up was that the overwhelmingly Democratic rally participants had little love for members of their own party who had embraced school choice and other education reforms.

A substantial slice of Democrats has done so, of course. There’s even a prominent national group, well represented in Colorado, called Democrats for Education Reform. Like-minded Dems include no less than the two most recent Democratic presidents, who supported charter schools, and closer to home, the current Denver Public Schools board. It has implemented a wide range of reforms including charters and innovation schools.

As we noted earlier this week, that probably explains why one of the Denver school board’s members, prominent Democrat and former Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, was turned down when she asked to address Wednesday’s rally.

That privilege evidently was reserved for Democrats more in sync with the CEA — the event’s principal organizer — and its opposition to the reform movement. Democrats like state Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton, who didn’t mince words about who he sees as the enemy. As recounted in the CEA press release:

“Once public education is taken from you, you no longer have power and that is what is happening here,” said State Rep. Joe Salazar, who spoke at the rally with State Sens. Andy Kerr and Michael Merrifield. “Betsy DeVos and Democrats for Education Reform and the charter school movement are stripping power from you, and they are doing it knowingly.”

Barbara O’Brien, that means you — among others.


Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is a blogger and opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.


  • Mike

    July 20, 2017 at 10:36 am

    There it is for all to see in Joe Salazar’s quote, the real reason that the far left and teacher’s unions oppose school choice and other reforms: It’s all about keeping a firm grip on their own personal power. Nothing about what is best for the children that they are only too happy to FORCE to attend their monopoly schools. It is reprehensible for these people to use children as pawns in their self-enrichment scheme.

    With the abysmal record of academic failure that hangs around their necks, I don’t know how these folks can claim with straight faces that students and their parents should not be allowed to have other options.

    • Roxanne Paine

      July 21, 2017 at 1:20 pm

      Absolutely spot on Mike!

    • L McKnight

      July 21, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      This cherry-picked piece of Joseph Salazar’s speech may have been chosen to enforce a pre-selected notion for this article. It in no way summarizes the remarks given. Please take a look at Salazar’s actual statement before making judgements.

  • Jeannie

    July 21, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    You both need to look at the facts which will tell you 12 years (long enough to be the status quo for sure) of Bennet/Boasberg/deVos “reform” have left Denver public schools with:

    1. The largest achievement/opportunity gap (upwards of 30% for both reading and math)of 35 of the largest urban districts in the country. And it is growing;

    2. The 45th lowest graduation rate out of 50 urban districts; (both data confirmed at, a very “reform” university center.

    3. Well over half of dps schools are now non-union producing worse academic outcomes than before because of course, when you try to teach without proper training, what can you expect.

    4. Charter schools and choice are really only happening in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty and second language learners. Central denver and se Denver have little “reform” going on;

    5. The highly touted DSST has a graduation rate of 57%. Yes that’s right . Over 8 years of graduates (they haven’t released the 2017 numbers yet) in Stapleton DSST, 1139 students started as freshmen, 650 have graduated. 57%. In GVR, 314 started, 177 graduated. 56.4%. Hmmm. Wonder where the other 43% go? Maybe to real public schools.

    The academic failure that is hanging around necks is hanging around the necks of “reformers” who keep messing with the data and who keep confusing implementation of reform with academic outcomes.

  • Earleen

    July 21, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Spot on Jeannie. People, take your heads out of the sand, for goodness sake! Stop listening to the rhetoric and start looking at real data.

  • Mike McDaniel

    July 21, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    This piece is crap and Colorado Politics reveals it’s slant: the goal here is to sow divisions among the left.

    She asked late and the agenda was full. She was welcome to attend, or host her OWN event instead of tagging along.

    CEA was NOT the principal organizer.

    So many untruths, guess I’ll have to scrutinize this “news” site more closely from now on.

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