Kelly SloanKelly SloanJune 25, 20186min828

The Democratic primary race for governor of the state of Colorado took on a certain air of the surreal in the waning days of the contest. It began a few weeks back when a group supporting Cary Kennedy ran what one presumes was supposed to be an attack ad against both Jared Polis and Mike Johnston. The elements were all there – the unflattering photos, the cropped headlines, the accusatory voice-over – and yet curiously the message was laudatory, pointing out pro-education positions allegedly taken by both candidates. Specifically, the ad credited Polis for apparently at some point in his life supporting the extension of educational opportunity to all regardless of income in the form of a voucher program, and Johnston for sponsoring a bill to improve teacher performance and accountability.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirNovember 30, 20173min546

It seems to be anyone’s guess at the moment as to how far Aurora Public Schools’ new teachers union-backed majority will go in calling back any of the reform agenda implemented by the previous board and Superintendent Rico Munn. And to be fair, it’s not clear if the reconfigured board will go there at all.

The new members elected Nov. 7 — Kyla Armstrong-Romero, Marques Ivey, Kevin Cox and Debbie Gerkin — were supported by the Aurora Education Association, and their victory was part of broader, union-sponsored backlash at reform that also swept some other Denver-area school districts.

For years, teachers unions have been pushing back hard at proliferating charter schools, innovation schools and accountability measures, like extensive testing. This was their year to regain some ground lost to reformers in past school board races.

Yet, at least in Aurora, it’s unclear what’s next. As Chalkbeat Colorado reported this week following the four new members’ swearing in:

While the new board members have said they disagree with some of the district’s reforms — which include recruiting high-performing charter schools to the district — they also said they are not in a rush to make immediate changes.

An early litmus test could be in January, when, as Chalkbeat reports:

… the new school board may be asked to vote on changes to Paris Elementary, a school in the district’s innovation zone. Schools in the zone get autonomy from some district, union and state rules. The school is struggling to show academic improvement. If it doesn’t improve next year, it could land on the state’s list of schools facing state sanctions. Aurora officials are trying to make changes to the school before that happens.

The teachers union is unlikely to embrace precisely such autonomy from the union’s own collective bargaining agreement and its wide-ranging rules defining teachers’ day-to-day duties. Education stakeholders across the policy spectrum will be watching.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 28, 20173min375

Upscale and conservative Douglas County’s public schools have set the pace for education reform in recent years, developing a homegrown school-voucher program (stalled by an ongoing court challenge) and ending collective bargaining with the local teachers union.

Reform of course is in the eye of the beholder, and the changes haven’t sat well with a contingent of parents, educators and others — the unions, too, of course — who have been challenging the DougCo school district for years. That includes in school board races, and the upcoming fall election promises to be another contentious one. Things are heating up already.

Complete Colorado’s Sherrie Peif reports that a group of parents critical of the reforms and supportive of a slate of teachers union-backed school board candidates was placing leaflets on parents’ cars at a back-to-school night at elementary schools. That led to standoff with school officials:

According to Douglas County School District (DCSD) representatives, principals at two elementary schools had to call police after the political activist committee, Douglas County Parents, refused to leave the property.

The group supports the local teachers union-backed slate of Board of Education candidates.

In at least one instance, parents became hostile with the principal, officials said.

Peif notes:

School policies prohibit the distribution of non-school sponsored material without permission of the building administrator during school hours (which includes 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after start and end times) and school-sponsored events, such as back-to-school nights.

District officials said the group did not seek approval to put fliers out during the events.

The parents’ group later shot back via social media. Peif writes that one district critic posted on the Facebook page of the group Speak for DCSD:

“Principals at Sage Canyon and Flagstone called the police on parents flyering (sic) cars and exercising their constitutional rights when no educational activities were taking place and in the evening. Flyers (sic) from “both sides” have been put on cars this week at various schools with no hassle or problems. If you think Reformers are just on the board of education, think again. Some principals also support the reform agenda and will do all they can to silence parents.”

Supporters of the current board’s policies, meanwhile, have fielded their own slate of candidates. We reported on that in July.