Conservatives have ample reasons 
to look to Douglas County schools

The progressives running for three school board seats in District 51 here in Mesa County can breathe a collective sigh of relief after it was announced earlier this month that the Mesa County Democratic Party would not be endorsing any candidates for the school board election.

I suppose this is a good thing for conservatives running for those seats because after all, endorsements by this group have led to the election in the last few years of — well, there has got to be somebody. Oh yeah, President Obama, that’s it. Not here, mind you, or in western Colorado, but by golly, somewhere.

The Democrats also will not be giving any money to school board candidates.

This is a cunning plan, because the last thing people running for political office want to be identified with are groups of people with defined political ideas. Especially progressives in Mesa County.

If this were Chicago or Boulder, progressive candidates would probably be riding donkeys with Obama bumper stickers to work every day. Besides, neither political-party apparatus in Mesa County nor the Western Slope, for that matter, has any significant money to give anyone.

I’m surprised by people who think if they run for office and win the nomination, they’re going to get some sort of fat check from one of the parties. Let me be technical for a moment: In western Colorado local elections, fat checks almost never show up for anybody. If they do, they usually have the candidate’s name on both the “to” and “from” line.

What does show up are things like the movie shown in Grand Junction on Monday night called “The Reformers.” This documentary has to do with the maniacal obsession union pressure groups have with the Douglas County school district on Colorado’s Front Range. How coincidental the film would show up just as conservative candidates express interest in Douglas County innovation.

Boy, apparently if you see this version of what’s going on in Douglas County schools, it’s real Old Testament stuff — floods, fire from the sky and burning bushes. Towering head and shoulders above these are the twin towers of evil for the children in Castle Rock and neighboring communities (insert thunderclap here): The school board negotiated directly with teachers and the union was forced to collect its own dues!

Things are going quite swimmingly for Douglas County after it moved the union obstructionists out of the way of education. While there are some half truths floating around, here are some important things to remember about the results of Douglas County moving to a performance-oriented district with pay-for-performance goals for staff instead of a process-oriented one where things like longevity carry the day.

According to an Independence Institute study:

✔ The Douglas County school board has increased the district’s bond rating to an AA plus, which saves millions of dollars in financing costs each year.

✔  Between 2008 and 2013, it reduced spending on central administration by more than 20 percent and a quarter of those cuts were tax dollars derived from no longer underwriting union officer salaries.

✔  State-recognized schools of excellence grew from 14 to 19 and the on-time graduation rate climbed from 83 percent to 87 percent in two years.

According to the Colorado Observer, a statewide teacher survey this year found significantly more Douglas County teacher satisfaction than in 2011.

Topping this off, the Cato Institute found that nationally, federal government spending per pupil on education has increased 375 percent from 1970 through 2012, with no perceptible change in core skills and a loss to some extent in hard sciences.

This means many parents now have children who think the Star Trek movies are documentaries or want to move to that Avatar planet and protect the environment for those tall, English- speaking aliens. All this for only three times as much money as in 1970.

No wonder status-quo types are afraid that conservatives interested in some of Douglas County’s ideas might get elected to the school board.

Rick Wagner writes more on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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