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Voucher-backing Ready Colorado rates legislature on education reform

Author: Marianne Goodland - July 26, 2018 - Updated: August 9, 2018

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handheld radiosPhoto by Rick Kimpel, via Creative Commons license, Flickr,

Colorado House and Senate Republicans got the best grades for the 2018 legislative session in a scorecard released Thursday by conservative education reform backers Ready Colorado.

State Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs and Rep. Paul Lundeen of Monument (who hopes to be in the Senate come January) both got top marks from the group, which supports education choice, including using taxpayer-funded vouchers to pay for private K-12 education.

The group, which doesn’t disclose its donors, put more than $100,000 into an independent expenditure committee in 2015 that supported pro-voucher candidates for the Douglas County School Board.  All three of those candidates lost, in what was the beginning of a takeover of the school board by members opposed to vouchers, and who eventually rescinded the voucher program.

The scorecard, not surprisingly, gave its best marks in the state Senate to Republicans and worst marks to Democrats, many of whom oppose using taxpayer funds to support private schools; 14 of the 16  Senate Democrats earned Ds or Fs. The best grade earned by any Senate Democrat was a C, for both Sens. Rhonda Fields of Aurora and Dominick Moreno of Commerce City.

All Senate Republicans earned either an A+, A or A-.

The report card is a little different for the House, where the group came down hard on several Colorado Springs Republican lawmakers. Rep. Dave Williams earned a D; Rep. Shane Sandridge got an F.

No House Democrat scored above a C grade; those who earned the C include Reps. Jeff Bridges of Greenwood Village, Dominique Jackson of Aurora and Jovan Melton, also of Aurora.

One surprise was the D grade given to Democratic Rep. Brittany Petterson of Lakewood, who had been a champion for equalization of charter school funding in the 2017 session, a bill Ready Colorado strongly backed. Pettersen received a B in the group’s 2017 scorecard.

The criteria for 2018 included 13 bills, eight supported by Ready Colorado and five they opposed. That included measures on allowing (or not) 529 accounts to be used for K-12 education, both private and public (one failed in the House, the other in the Senate); capital construction funding for all public schools, income tax credits for school choice; and a bill strengthening the authority of local school boards to make decisions about charter schools, which also failed.

Ready Colorado President Luke Ragland, in a statement, said:

Colorado continues to be a national leader on education reform thanks to the leadership of legislators like Owen Hill and Paul Lundeen. But we also need to remain vigilant in the face of opposition from the teachers’ union and legislators in both parties that refuse to put kids and the improvement of our education system first with their voting record on K-12 education policy. We believe every kid deserves a shot at a world-class education and honor those that remain committed to creating that world-class system for every student in Colorado, no matter what ZIP code they live (in).

 

Correction: the $100,000 contribution Ready Colorado gave to the Douglas County Education IEC was for the 2015 election.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.