72257df83aa038c08d98efdd08f78b88.jpg

Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 14, 20175min288
The U.S. secretary of education toured the Air Force Academy campus, chatted with cadets over lunch and even hopped into the cockpit of a T-53 aircraft training simulator during a visit to the school on Wednesday. But if Betsy DeVos shared any ideas about her vision for America’s education system, it wasn’t apparent. The academy […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe


631920144.jpg

Hugh JohnsonSeptember 12, 20171min2590

United States Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will visit the Air Force Academy Wednesday as part of her “Rethink School” tour, the department announced Tuesday.

DeVos will visit the Academy from 11:15 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. as part of a three-stop trip in Colorado and Nebraska. She will visit the Firefly Autism House in Denver Wednesday morning, then travel to the Academy. Afterward, DeVos will head to Midland University in Omaha.

DeVos’ “Rethink School” tour is designed to showcase “creative ways education leaders are meeting the needs of students in K-12 and higher education,” according to a Department of Education press release. The tour began Tuesday and will last through Friday. Stops will be made in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana.

“There are so many new and exciting ways state-based education leaders and advocates are truly rethinking education,” DeVos said in a release. “It is our goal with this tour to highlight what’s working. We want to encourage local education leaders to continue to be creative, to empower parents with options and to expand student-centered education opportunities.”


AP17060091731912.jpg

Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 25, 201710min930

Coming to a Democratic primary near you: a clash over education issues.

In several big states, governors who have supported charter schools are on their way out or facing a re-election fight in 2018. And while the party is united in its distaste for President Donald Trump, candidates vying for state leadership from California to Georgia are split on key education issues.

To simplify: In one camp are those who favor charter schools and accountability policies based in part on test scores, exemplified by the group Democrats for Education Reform. In the other camp are those — most prominently teachers unions — who emphasize greater investment in schools and are skeptical of solutions that focus on charters and choice.

Those tensions are growing, as the current president and his unpopular Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos make education reform a tougher sell than it was under President Obama, who supported charter schools.

“I do expect this fight to play out to some degree in Democratic primaries up and down the ballot,” said Shavar Jeffries, the DFER president. “The old-line forces see an opportunity to use the historically toxic Trump-DeVos brand to reverse progress we’ve made under Presidents Clinton and Obama.”

The National Education Association did not respond to a request for comment and a spokesperson for the American Federation for Teachers declined to comment on Democratic primaries.

So far, few candidates are publicly hashing out differences on education, and Jeffries said it’s too early to discuss specific races. But candidates’ past records and recent statements suggest that education will play an important role, particularly in the jockeying for endorsements from monied players like DFER and local unions. Meanwhile, Democratic supporters of charter schools are increasingly being linked to DeVos.

Here are five upcoming governors’ races where education could be a key issue in the Democratic primary.

Colorado candidates tote hefty education résumés

In John Hickenlooper, Democratic advocates of charter schools have had a staunch ally in the Denver statehouse. They’re hoping to keep it that way, as Hickenlooper exits and a number of prominent Democrats, all with extensive education backgrounds, vie to replace him.

The field includes two long-time supporters of charter schools.

One is Jared Polis, a congressman who helped start a network of charter schools (and who once got into a Twitter spat with education reform critic Diane Ravitch). Then there’s Michael Johnston, a former state senator and school principal who authored the state’s controversial teacher evaluation law, which relies heavily on student test scores. Johnston, who spearheaded a failed statewide ballot initiative to increase school spending, has already drawn significant support from the education reform world, inside and outside Colorado.

Neither has emphasized traditional education reform issues so far, though: Polis has focused on expanding pre-K; Johnston has emphasized tuition-free college.

Another prominent Democrat, former state treasurer Cary Kennedy, also seems likely to focus on education issues besides charter schools, including increasing teacher pay and reducing the number of standardized tests.

“I want all our kids to be thinkers and creative problem-solvers, not just good test-takers,” said Kennedy, who wrote a 2000 state constitutional amendment that required regular education funding increases.

Lt. Governor Donna Lynne is also considering jumping in, and businessman Noel Ginsburg, who founded a youth apprenticeship organization, is running.

Whoever wins will likely face a hard-fought general election in this perennial swing state.

In California, Newsom knocks Villaraigosa on schools

It’s southern versus northern California: former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is facing former San Francisco Mayor (and current lieutenant governor) Gavin Newsom in the race for governor of the country’s most populous state.

Villaraigosa has been a staunch supporter of charter schools and a frequent critic of teachers unions. Newsom has less of a record on education, but has hinted at differences between the two.

“I believe in public education and will fight like mad for our public schools,” Newsom said earlier this year. “This is not the case of every Democrat running for governor.”

California’s unusual primary system — in which all candidates, regardless of party, run on the same ticket and the top two vote-getters face each other in the general election — means it’s possible Villaraigosa and Newsom will face each other in the November 2018 general election.

California state treasurer John Chiang and former state schools superintendent Delaine Eastin are also running for the Democrats, though they trail in recent polls.

The next governor will replace Jerry Brown, who had started two charters of his own before taking office and has been a strong supporter of the privately managed, publicly funded schools. Brown even recently vetoed a bill to ban for-profit charters, though many charter school advocates have supported such a change.

Georgia candidate linked to DeVos at progressive conference

Term limits mean that Georgia’s Republican Governor Nathan Deal, a big charter-school supporter, will leave office next year. Two Democrats are running to replace him: Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans, both state representatives.

Evans recently came in for criticism at a progressive conference for her support of charter schools and a tax-credit scholarship program, which functions like a school voucher program. Some attendees held up signs that read “Evans = DeVos.”

Abrams, who is vying to be the nation’s first black female governor, responded with an implicit jab. “Activists in Atlanta peacefully protested this morning on the critical issue of preserving public education for every family in our state,” she said.

The nominee will likely face an uphill battle in this red state.

New York’s Cuomo under pressure on charters, education funding

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is planning to run for a third term, but his record on education has left some progressives wary.

He has been a key ally of the state’s charter lobby, put in place teacher evaluations based heavily on student test scores (a stance he has since backed away from), and supported school-spending increases substantially lower than what funding advocacy groups like the Alliance for Quality Education have called for.

Cynthia Nixon, the prominent actress and long-time spokesperson for the union-backed Alliance, has said she’s considering a run. She has said her campaign would focus on education issues, particularly school funding. Cuomo also risks a challenge from a more conventional candidate: Syracuse mayor Stephanie Miner, who has polled within striking distance of the incumbent.

That said, a primary against the powerful and well-financed Cuomo is far from guaranteed and if it happens, is likely a long shot.

Tennessee candidates may differ on charters

Tennessee Democrats haven’t won a statewide office in over a decade, but that hasn’t deterred two Democrats from running for the state’s top office.

One is Karl Dean, who pushed to expand charter schools as the mayor of Nashville. But local charter advocates have faced a number of setbacks, including the defeat of several favored school board candidates. Dean has said charter schools will not be the centerpiece of his education agenda, though his record on education has already come under criticism from charter school critics.

Opposing Dean in the primary will be Craig Fitzhugh, the minority leader in the Tennessee house of representatives. He has generally been more skeptical of charter schools and drawn more support from unions than Dean.

The winner will likely be an underdog in the general election battle to replace Bill Haslam, the current Republican governor, who has strongly backed the expansion of charter schools.
___

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.


IMG_3204-e1500489692586-1024x768.jpg

Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 19, 20174min932
Several hundred protesters rally against ‘school choice’ policies pushed by the conservative ALEC organization ahead of ALEC’s meeting in Denver on Wednesday July 19, 2017. (Peter Marcus/ColoradoPolitics.com)

A few hundred protesters gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday to protest school choice policies pushed by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

Standing on the west steps of the Capitol, activists – led by teachers’ unions – held signs that read, “Vouchers = Theft,” with anti-U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos photos on them.

Some also held large cutout headshots of Republican state lawmakers who support charter schools and voucher programs, despite some pieces of legislation in the Colorado legislature this year around equal funding for charter schools being bipartisan efforts.

The rally came ahead of an annual ALEC meeting in Denver, where DeVos is scheduled to speak along with other conservative leaders, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. DeVos and Zinke are scheduled for Thursday.

“Why would you take money from the less affluent to give to those who can already afford to buy their education in their positions,” said JoZi Martinez, a Denver Public Schools teacher and local activist. “Leave public education to the experts, we the teachers and the administrators.

“This is not a monarchy and you clearly are not a queen, Ms. DeVos.”

Several state Democratic elected officials also spoke at the rally, including those who are running for higher office. State Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, who is running for attorney general, has become a well-known figure in the activist community.

“Once it’s taken from you, then you no longer have power, and that is what’s happening here,” Salazar said, suggesting that there is a push to deny public education to low-income and minority communities.

“What you need to do is not just resit but become the opposition to what is happening,” Salazar continued. “Don’t just rally – vote!”

Also speaking at the rally was state Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, who is one of three Democrats hoping to replace U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Arvada, in the 7th Congressional District. Following the rally, Kerr marched with protesters to a hotel in downtown Denver where the ALEC conference was taking place.

“My position as a state senator is what gives me the opportunity to address you here today, but my opposition to Betsy DeVos has little to do with being a state senator, and has everything to do with being a dad and a teacher,” Kerr said, who taught social studies.

“I know that Donald Trump and Secretary DeVos are a disaster for our schools.”


431f963e0478520089578abb58f6bcef.jpg

Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 19, 20173min78
The American Legislative Exchange Council kicks off its three-day annual gathering in Denver Wednesday to tilt state legislators from across the country toward the industry-friendly principles of free markets and limited government. Moreover, the business-supported nonprofit best known by its acronym, ALEC, helps them draft pro-business legislation to fight a ground war of sorts in […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe


Screen-Shot-2017-07-18-at-12.37.01-PM.png

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 18, 20175min22010

Her name is almost synonymous with “liberal” in Colorado political circles. The indelibly Democratic Barbara O’Brien has served in many capacities over the years, including as Colorado’s 47 lieutenant governor with Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, 2007-2011.

The onetime calling with which she is still most identified, of course, is as longtime director of the Colorado Children’s Campaign, the unapologetically left-ish children’s-advocacy mega-group whose for-the-kids appeals on assorted policy initiatives over the decades have been music to the ears of legislative Democrats and cause for tooth grinding among Republicans.

Now the vice president of the Denver Public Schools board, she’s still advocating for kids, still doing so in the midst of Colorado’s lopsidedly Democratic capital city, and she is taking plenty of shots at a Trump administration — and particularly its polarizing education secretary — of whom she is no fan.

So, when she asked to address a rally planned for Wednesday morning at the Capitol in protest of an anticipated visit to Denver Thursday by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, O’Brien was, as one would expect … turned down?

Her campaign (she’s running for re-election to the DPS board) confirmed it. Attempts to get the organizers of tomorrow’s rally to comment have been unsuccessful so far.

So, what gives? Maybe it’s that O’Brien, as reliably left of center as she always has been in general, is not in sync with an influential faction of her tribe when it comes to one of her own touchstone causes: education reform. She and her fellow DPS board members have championed a range of innovations over the years, including “innovation” schools and charter schools, which have rankled teachers unions.

Organized labor and especially public-sector employee unions like the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and the Colorado Education Association, comprise a cornerstone of the Democratic Party’s power base. The unions are also helping run the Wednesday rally.

Which translates to, “No podium for you!” It wasn’t put that way, of course; an O’Brien campaign staffer said the rejection was vague; something about the roster being full.

The speakers list on the event’s Facebook page includes a number of union reps and teachers in the union. It also includes another candidate for the Denver Public Schools board — Tay Anderson, the precocious 18-year-old student body president at Denver’s Manual High School, who drew media attention when he announced his run this spring.

Anderson, whom we were unable to reach, is the lead organizer of the Wednesday protest, and he set up its Facebook page. The youthful candidate also is, by all indicators, running against the prevailing reformist agenda on the school board.

O’Brien shared her thoughts on the affair via a campaign staffer who texted her comments to us:

“One of the most frustrating things about politics is when all candidates agree on the same thing but won’t embrace each other in the shared mission … It is always disappointing to be excluded because of politics, but I won’t be excluded from standing up and fighting against this administration’s harmful policies. This is about kids, and I will do everything to fight for their rights and equal treatment.”

UPDATE FRIDAY JULY 21: A Facebook post this morning by Anderson clarifies that O’Brien was welcome to attend the rally even if she wouldn’t be able to address it.

 


631920144.jpg

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 14, 20174min1091

To (very) loosely paraphrase von Clausewitz in advance of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos’s anticipated visit to Denver next week: Just about everything nowadays is the continuation of politics by other means. At least, as far as “The Resistance” to the Trump administration is concerned.

OK, so the von Clausewitz reference was a bit clunky, but the point here is that the superheated, super-motivated opposition to all things Trump is not about to pass up any opportunity to publicly protest the administration’s agenda. The appearance of DeVos — much derided by the left for her embrace of conservative doctrine as well as her billionaire status — provides as good an opening as any.

DeVos is expected to address fellow conservatives at the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council July 19-21 at the Hyatt Regency Denver. But according to a report this week by Chalkbeat Colorado, the secretary — narrowly confirmed by the U.S. Senate amid heated debate earlier this year — first will have to run a gantlet of unfriendlies:

A “Denver RESISTS DeVos” protest, meanwhile, is planned for 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday outside the state Capitol involving multiple groups. The protest is being promoted on a Facebook page hosted by Tay Anderson, a 2017 Manual High School graduate who is running for a Denver school board seat. It’s part of a broader “ALEC resistance” effort that includes a “teach-in.”

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, is planning to make signs that morning, take part in the protest and then march to the ALEC meeting at a downtown hotel, according to its Facebook event page.

John Ford, president of Jefferson County Education Association and a scheduled speaker at Wednesday’s protest, said in a statement via email that “voucher schemes and other failed reforms” DeVos will promote are not welcome in Colorado.

Meaning, she will encounter two cross-currents of anti-Trump activists during her visit — those union-backed opposition to her position on education issues, and critics of ALEC. Quite a welcome wagon.


2017-Meeting-Web-Banner_AM-1024x187.jpg

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 6, 20173min1040

Lawmakers who lean right — and hope to reinvent government accordingly — have had a friend named ALEC for 44 years. The conservative, pro-free market American Legislative Exchange Council has been an advocate of limited government and a resource for model legislation to generations of (mostly Republican) state legislators in Colorado and across the country.

In ALEC’s own words, it “… facilitates interaction between public and private sector leaders, think tanks and citizen groups through meetings and model policy development.”

This year, Denver hosts the organization’s annual, national meeting, and the lineup of featured political and business celebs who will address the gathering won’t disappoint those who attend. Says an ALEC press statement announcing the July 19-21 event at the Hyatt Regency Denver:

Members will have the opportunity to attend workshops, plenary sessions and task force meetings and hear from notable speakers, including the Honorable Jim DeMint, Newt Gingrich, Mr. Steve Forbes, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Mr. Pete Coors, Mr. Guy Benson and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.

Liberal critics and some mainstream media long have been critical of ALEC, citing its close ties to business and accusing it of doing the business world’s bidding in America’s statehouses. There’s even an “ALEC Exposed” website set up by the left-leaning Center For Media and Democracy.

ALEC’s own take on itself and its role in American politics is, of course, substantially different. From the press release:

“ALEC brings together the best and brightest minds in policy to learn from one another,” said ALEC CEO Lisa B. Nelson. “For 44 years, our annual meeting has been a place where legislators, business owners and hardworking, everyday Americans can come together in one place and offer their suggestions insights on what is happening on the ground in the states. After all, that’s where we see the most impactful change.”


Donald_Trump_Cabinet_meeting_2017-03-13_01-1024x683.jpg

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 8, 20175min830

The Centennial Institute — the conservative advocacy arm of Colorado Christian University in Lakewood — scored a coup last year with its campaign to lure then-presidential candidate Donald Trump to its annual Western Conservative Summit. #GetTrumptotheSummit was the rallying cry on Twitter, and it succeeded in getting Trump to make his first campaign speech in the state when he addressed the summit last July.


As this year’s summit approaches, Centennial and its Director Jeff Hunt are at it again. This time, they’ve kicked off a campaign to get the whole Trump team — or, at least, its most prominent members — to put in a showing at the July 21-23 event at the Colorado Convention Center.

An email from Hunt this week announces the effort and once again calls on supporters to take action using Twitter:

For the first time in Western Conservative Summit history, conservatives have control of the White House and the executive branch of our government. From our very first summit in 2010, progressive liberals in the White House, disregarding separation of powers, have rammed through their aggressive agenda. This year, however, Summit attendees want to hear from leaders in our government advancing conservative public policy.

While we have sent invitations to Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Dr. Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Betsy DeVos, Scott Pruitt, and Ryan Zinke, we need your help by showing your support on social media. Please click on the tweets below and demonstrate your wish to see the Trump Administration at the 2017 Western Conservative Summit!

And this year’s hashtag, fittingly, is #GetTrumpTeamToTheSummit. As Hunt notes on Twitter, it’s part of a multimedia campaign:

Of course, getting Trump the candidate to show while he was on the campaign trail is one thing; luring back Trump the president — along with his VP, top advisers and key Cabinet members — is quite another matter. (Also, isn’t there some sort of national security protocol about all these folks being in the same room? Or is that just on TV?)

By the way, plenty of Trump Cabinet members and influential advisers evidently weren’t on Centennial’s RSVP list in the first place. No Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner or Sean Spicer; no Nikki Haley, Elaine Chao or Wilbur Ross. (Chao is transportation secretary; Ross heads commerce. Admit it: You drew a blank on them.) Not even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — the dean of the Cabinet.

Oh, and no Ivanka? What’s up with that?


ICYMIfeature.jpg

Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinApril 17, 20175min77

While the state and federal governments have different definitions regarding the legality of marijuana, it's an even murkier picture when it come to marijuana's far less potent cousin, industrial hemp. And, as the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported, the differences surfaced over a water issue in southeastern Colorado. The Bureau of Reclamation denied a farmer's request for water because part of his crop was hemp. Further complicating the matter, the 2014 Farm Bill defined hemp as distinct from marijuana. There's a bill in the Colorado Legislature that brought the issue to light, so stay tuned.