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Ernest LuningErnest LuningMarch 11, 20184min1086

Larimer County Republican Nic Morse is withdrawing from the race for the Senate District 15 seat held by term-limited state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, who is seeking the GOP nomination for state treasurer, Colorado Politics has learned. Morse, a marketing executive and the 2016 Republican nominee for the congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, said his decision was due to poor fundraising and tepid support within the party. His move leaves fast-food restaurant owner Rob Woodward as the only GOP candidate running for the heavily Republican seat.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 19, 201815min1266
Jimmy Sengenberger was that way-older-than-his-years, way-ahead-of-the-pack kind of kid you sort of admired and sort of envied — and, admit it, sort of resented — back in middle school. He began listening to Rush on the radio at 12 and was attending Arapahoe County Republican Men’s Club breakfasts by 13. He was putting together high […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJanuary 31, 20183min1778

He began his political career at 25, in 1987, as the youngest Coloradan ever to serve in the state Senate. A Republican and unflinching conservative, he went from the legislature to three terms in the U.S. House, representing Colorado’s 4th Congressional District. After a stint in the private sector, it was back to the campaign trail for two runs for the U.S. Senate. Next, he put in a distinguished tenure on the State Board of Education. Along the way he was one of Colorado’s most ardent advocates for education reform and a linchpin in the school choice movement. You could say it’s the résumé of a political Renaissance man.

And yet, Bob Schaffer’s most rewarding career experience may be the years he has spent at Fort Collins’s distinguished Liberty Common School. It’s one of the state’s consistently highest-performing public charter schools, and Schaffer and wife Maureen were among its founding parents. As he told us in a profile last year:

…I regard being part of this organization to be among the highest privileges I’ve ever enjoyed.  I love being around the students.  I love teaching.  I love handing out prestigious diplomas at the end of the year to college-bound students – many of whom are empowered by full-tuition scholarships and enough college credits earned in high school to enroll as college sophomores, sometimes juniors.

This week, the school announced Schaffer was being promoted from his longtime post as principal over the K-12 program’s high school to headmaster of the entire program, serving some 1,100 students. From a press announcement on the promotion:

…As headmaster, he will oversee management of the school’s overall K-12 mission, provide increased support for Liberty’s foundational philosophy and Core Knowledge curriculum, and effectively implement the Board of Directors’ strategic plan.

Patrick Albright, Chairman of Liberty Common School’s Board of Directors said, “Under Mr. Schaffer’s leadership, Liberty Common High School has become one of the very top schools in the state and the nation. Broadening Mr. Schaffer’s leadership and vision across both of our campuses will improve our tradition of providing excellence in education to all of our students.”

Said Schaffer in the school’s press release:

“…I’m excited about being able to double my interaction with local parents, over the entire primary- and secondary-school spectrum, who are empowered by choice in public education, an ambitious classical curriculum, and the highest academic expectations for their kids.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 6, 201713min509

Remember Brad Jones? Not all that long ago, he was the enfant terrible of conservative-libertarian politics in Colorado. You may recall his tenure as the young man behind the upstart blog Face The State, which among other things exposed an email exchange between two Democratic state lawmakers bashing school choice; it led to the virtual public flogging of one of them, then-Rep. Michael Merrifield of Manitou Springs. Think back far enough, and you might recall Jones as the University of Colorado undergrad and College Republicans chair who made waves staging a campus bake sale mocking affirmative action and held a “conservative coming-out day.” While a student, Jones also worked for Republican former Colorado U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in 2004. He graduated CU in 2005, worked for a time for the tort-reforming Colorado Civil Justice League and then went on to start and run two successive iterations of Face the State. And Jones did stints as a radio host and a fill-in panelist debating politics on public TV. Now only 33, he has in some ways had a more storied political career than many politicos experience in a lifetime. So, where is he now? Still in Denver, but there’s more. Read on.

Colorado Politics: For a number of years, you had a reputation as a no-holds-barred, in-your-face political advocate, blogger and journalist — whether it was staging a campus bake sale spoofing affirmative action or, later on, exposing the emails of anti-school choice lawmakers. Then, you seemed to drop out and move on from Colorado politics. Why the transition — and what are you up to nowadays?

Brad Jones: It wasn’t so much a transition as a crash-landing. Face The State, the investigative-journalism outfit I was running at the time, ran out of money. I learned the hard way how donor pledges don’t always result in cash for payroll. These days I am a contract web developer, part-time paramedic, volunteer firefighter and CEO of a startup seafood sales business.

CP: What sparked your interest in politics in the first place, and why did you choose a rightward path at an age when so many young people veer left?

Jones: I grew up in Arlington, Virginia; you can see the Washington monument in D.C. from the end of my childhood home’s cul-de-sac. My parents weren’t all that political, but I found myself fighting a losing but formative battle against the county’s all-Democrat school board. I was the captain of my high school’s rifle team — three-position, just like in the Olympics — and we actually practiced and competed at a small, four-lane range in the basement of our rival school. Rifle is a really boring sport in many respects. It’s slow-moving and you need what amounts to a telescope to follow the action. It was the school’s oldest sport and the team was actually quite good. Hardly anyone paid attention to us because we paid almost all our own expenses and there are basically no spectators. After the attacks at Columbine, some local activists were shocked — shocked! — to discover students with “guns at school.” Never mind being perfectly legal under Virginia law, the rifle team and our single-shot, bolt-action .22 caliber rifles were a menace to society, and a budget item to convert our range into storage space quietly made its way into the next year’s budget.

The team succeeded in having the fate of the range pulled out as a separate agenda item, but the school board voted swiftly to ban us to a location off campus at significant expense. Fighting for our survival was a crash course in political sausage-making. My experiences with CU-Boulder’s faculty and staff only served to reinforce my then-conservative views.

CP: How would you describe your political views today, and have you evolved?

Jones: I’m libertarian. I was a registered Republican since moving to Colorado, but changed affiliation to the Libertarian Party a few years ago. While I find Trump intellectually bankrupt, he was only the last of a long line of Republicans — including many in Colorado — to sour me on a party I once proudly supported. In college, I thought our young, socially liberal but pragmatic cohort of College Republicans represented a positive change in direction of the overall party. Over time, I learned my optimism on that front was misplaced. The party’s more recent embrace of Trump — whether reluctant or exuberant, doesn’t matter — reflects the broader abandonment of any real limited-government principles. Partisan politics in 2017 is entirely tribal. I used to argue for picking one of the two major parties in elections along the lines third parties spoiled close elections. Today, I find myself unable to morally justify a vote for most Republican candidates.

CP: Face the State in its earliest iteration was sort of the prototype conservative Colorado blog; it was the pioneer. What lessons did you learn from that experience? Any regrets?

Jones: I’m proud of the full arc of work at Face The State. While our reboot was less “blog,” the focus was always investigative journalism. When we launched, Denver was a two-newspaper town, podcasts were novel and not yet understood, and the Blackberry was king among politicos. That doesn’t sound at all like the landscape today, does it? The positive way to spin FTS’s fall is that we were ahead of our time.

I’ve had a lot of time to perform a post-mortem on Face The State. That we were just a little ahead of our time could be a component but ignores the important choices we made. FTS was an unprofitable but willingly-subsidized venture in its first form, and an explicitly non-profit, donor-funded enterprise in the second. In both cases, though, the money came from politically-motivated people who wanted to create political change in a conservative/free-market direction. I think there were two main mistakes.

First, donors have trouble with political investments that do not have measurable results in the near-term. Campaigns are measured in vote counts, but the battle of ideas never ends. Even think tanks like the Independence Institute, which I personally support, can point to legislation passed or defeated or referenda at the ballot box.

Our goal with Face The State was, all along, to show via powerful reporting the limits of big government and stifling regulation. Donors liked stories that resulted in public disgrace or resignation — think Mike Merrifield, Michael Garcia — but had trouble understanding why we’d write about mismanagement at CHFA or a Highlands home crumbling amid Historic District abuse. Even more frustrating was the mainstream media’s blatant gatekeeping of our stories. Today it’s common for the largest, most respected newspapers to credit online outlets for breaking news. Our donors would read our story in the Denver Post and ask, where’s Face The State’s name? They went out of their way to ignore us.

The second error is all me. I should have early on recruited an advisory board who could help provide top-cover with our donors and others. I was under 30, had little business experience, and was simply outgunned by professional political handlers. We were forming a board when we closed shop, and it was a painful lesson to learn.

CP: Why do you think so many college students become liberals/progressives, at least, for a time? Describe what it was like being identifiably on the right at CU in Boulder — of all places.

Jones: The first question is easier to answer; college is no longer, and probably has not been for some time, primarily a vehicle for higher education. Cheap, no-questions-asked federal student aid has made schools, and especially the University of Colorado, black holes for these publicly-subsidized tuition dollars. Much of this increase in spending goes to administration and “student services,” not classrooms. Evidence the “Center for Community” on CU-Boulder’s campus, a towering monument to diversity consultants and self-segregating student groups. Students who spend 12-plus years in public schools learning from predominantly liberal teachers are primed to fit right in to a campus culture that actively encourages you to find your inner victim.

As for my personal experience, I learned a lot about myself and the way the world “really” worked while at CU. One example: Our “affirmative action bake sale” was an idea blatantly ripped-off from other campuses but nonetheless a powerful demonstration of how racial preferences are, themselves, tragically racist. After the university tried to unconstitutionally bar us from even holding the event, we were quite literally overrun by student protesters who would defend the university. Looking on were then vice-chancellor of student affairs, Ron Stump, and the chief of the CU police department. I doubt that’s the kind of “safe space” they would tolerate for any liberal event on campus. I imagine the situation is much worse today.

CP: What’s the greatest challenge facing those on the political right today?

Jones: The Republican Party is totally bereft of any intellectual integrity. If I were a GOP voter in the last few election cycles, I would have every right to feel cheated and betrayed by a Congress that promised Obamacare repeal and instead delivers a budget-busting, populist tragedy that simply changes the law’s name.

That’s not to say there aren’t elected Republicans with integrity, but the national trend is such that there really is no recognizable Republican brand for limited government.

CP: Who is your favorite Democrat on today’s political scene — in Colorado or beyond — and why?

Jones: I’ve always respected Jared Polis. I disagree with much of his politics, of course, but he is willing to take the occasional unpopular stand and has generally engaged his critics with respect. He’s also willing to lead on issues like banking for marijuana businesses, which is a critical safety and business issue for Colorado. My congresswoman, Diana DeGette, seems to understand she basically has job security for life, but is about as politically consequential as a House freshman.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJune 27, 20173min388
Chance Hill
Chance Hill, at right, a candidate for University of Colorado regent, picked up a key endorsement from former Congressman Bob Schaffer. (Photo courtesy of the Hill campaign)

Chance Hill, a candidate for University of Colorado regent from Colorado Springs, picked up a big endorsement Tuesday. Former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer is backing his fellow Republican.

“Chance is a patriot and a strong constitutional conservative,” Schaffer wrote in a letter of endorsement. “He understands that education is critical in maintaining the ideals that have informed our national character since the country’s founding — especially the value of free speech.

“Unfortunately, colleges throughout the country increasingly focus less on fostering an environment that promotes intellectual diversity and free speech and more on ‘safe spaces’ and ‘trigger warnings’ that too often stifle honest, productive discussion.”

CU Regent Kyle Hybl backs Colorado Springs Republican Chance Hill as his successor

Schaffer represented Colorado’s 4th Congressional District from 1997 to 2003 and is a former state senator and the former chairman of the state Board of Education.

“He believes that institutions of higher learning should value free expression and expose college students to a wide variety of viewpoints so that they can independently arrive at their own conclusions,” Schaffer continued. “And as our CU Regent, he will push hard to appoint future administrators who understand this mission as well — and whose leadership sets the tone and expectations for an intellectually diverse setting in which faculty and students of all kinds can thrive.

“Chance also understands the importance of a quality and affordable education, and he will fight to cut costs and curb rising tuition whenever possible.”

Hill participated in the Leadership Program of the Rockies. Schaffer is the program’s chairman.

Hill, a Colorado Springs lawyer and former CIA officer, is the lone candidate who has announced to run for the District 5 seat in Colorado Springs, which is being vacated by Kyle Hybl, who is term-limited.

“Given Congressman Schaffer’s stature throughout Colorado and his background in working to improve education, I really am proud to have his support,” Hill told Colorado Politics. “His endorsement means a lot in this state — especially for a candidate pursuing a position in the education system.”



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 15, 20177min388

The perennial teacher shortage that bedevils many Colorado school districts, especially in rural communities, prompted legislation this year to study the problem in depth in the hope it will yield a solution at some point. That bill is now on its way to the governor.

Bob Schaffer thinks he could have saved lawmakers the trouble with this simple advice: Cut regulations, instead. Particularly, the requirement for licensing teachers in the state’s public schools.

The conservative Republican and longtime education-reform advocate once was a state lawmaker himself. He also was a lot more — a three-term congressman from Colorado’s 4th Congressional District; a member of the State Board of Education, and a leading strategist of the state’s school-choice movement. He is now the principal at Fort Collins’s vaunted Liberty Common High School, a charter school that is regularly among the state’s top academic performers. And in his spare moments, he pens a column for hometown paper The Coloradoan.

In his latest column, published last week, Schaffer drills down on what he believes is a big reason there aren’t enough teachers to go around. He writes, “It’s high time to liberate educators” from the strictures of licensure, and he bemoans the demise of another bill in the 2017 session that barely saw light of day but, he maintains, could have done much more to tackle the teacher shortage:

…Earlier in the session, one lawmaker petitioned his colleagues to suspend rural teacher-licensure requirements in order to free up available talent — for example, people with English degrees, engineering degrees, agriculture degrees and other relevant academic credentials — to fill classroom teaching jobs. The lawmaker spiked his own proposal, saying he couldn’t persuade members of the House Education Committee to support it.

As it turned out, the bill got crosswise with the education establishment:

…these politicians had been lobbied by the State Board of Education, which voiced its opposition to the idea of allowing unlicensed teachers to help rescue rural schoolchildren. So did the Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, which fiercely defends coercive licensure regulations and other artificial barriers to market entry.

Schaffer says that’s ironic because that same establishment itself is on record questioning the value of licensure:

In 2012, the Colorado Department of Education began questioning the value of teacher licensure. It reported, “The current system of licensure relies primarily on program completion and qualifications that are not meaningfully connected to student learning.”

Licensing officials admitted the current licensure system “is largely input-focused and compliance-based, relying on qualifications that do not accurately measure educator preparedness or effectiveness.” The Commissioner of Education bluntly added, “a teacher license guarantees nothing.” They’re right.

Despite licensure requirements that serve no pragmatic purpose, Colorado schoolteachers are coerced into forking over enormous sums and diverting considerable amounts of classroom time in order to qualify for, purchase and maintain credentials regarded as meaningless by the same government that issues them.

Unlicensed teachers? But, isn’t that crazy talk? How will we know if they are qualified? According to Schaffer, that’s a consideration that should be left to the schools themselves, not state law or the state education bureaucracy. And he maintains some of the best schools already do it that way:

There’s no rational reason rural principals should be denied the same freedom to hire competent unlicensed instructors, as most of the state’s top-performing public schools have been doing for over 20 years.

Indeed, charter public schoolteachers, for example, are exempt from licensure requirements. For decades, charter principals have been free to hire legitimate content experts, former college professors, and other experts whose invaluable professional experiences have prepared them for encore careers as teachers.

Unlicensed teachers are among the state’s best classroom instructors. Their students are among the most thoroughly prepared for college — consistently.

OK, but here’s the real question: Is Schaffer (who many years ago was this blogger’s boss in a former profession) just peddling a mantra — deregulation — of his political ilk? Or, does his prescription have practical value for luring more teachers into the trenches in the hardest-to-fill slots in rural Colorado?

We blogged about the spiked bill Schaffer references, and it’s worth pondering the words of its sponsor at the time it was derailed. Rep. Jim Wilson of Salida is a Republican but hardly an ideologue on education reform (or any other issue); he didn’t come across as someone picking a fight with the teachers union, just as a lawmaker frustrated by understaffed schools in his district — and proposing what he saw as a common-sense step.

Wilson, quoted by Chalkbeat’s Nicholas Garcia, seemed exasperated at the lack of support for his bill amid no real alternatives:

“My question is: Who is going to be concerned between unlicensed educators versus no educators? … There’s no easy simple solution to going out and finding (licensed teachers). They’re not there. I’ve never seen this kind of crisis — ever.”


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Rachael WrightRachael WrightMarch 2, 201715min355

…Twenty Years Ago This Week in The Colorado Statesman … The Colorado General Assembly seemed to have lawmakers' heads stuck in the corporate law section of the Colorado Revised Statutes. At the start of the 1997 legislative session, the Colorado Bar Association pushed two measures in the Legislature that would have far reaching impact in corporate law, and would likely help corporate lawyers make a little extra cash too. One bill revised the Nonprofit Corporation Act and another changed Colorado’s partnership law, while still another helped define the role of partners in a business entity should creditors come knocking.