GOP interest in school board races 
causing anxiety for teachers’ unions

Last week I read in The Daily Sentinel that there was much simulated shock but sadly no awe as some folks discovered that local Republican Party leaders were interested in who held political office, in this case school board membership.

There was the usual “concern” about candidates in ostensible nonpartisan elections having party affiliations. What this means in Mesa County is that liberal groups, who are a turbulent minority, do not want the voting public to know what philosophical underpinnings candidates might have by glancing at their ballots.

Nonpartisan elections are impractical exercises that try to ignore the idea that political parties are, for the most part, designations that speak to the political philosophy of a candidate. Sadly, not enough voters do their research into the backgrounds and political opinions of some important public positions.

Local school boards spend a higher percentage of property tax dollars than any other entity, yet their public meeting attendance and knowledge about candidates and incumbents are unhappily lacking among much of the voting public.

Up to now, information about local school board candidates, their recruitment and selection, has mainly been the province of unions and their surrogates. The thought that the Republican Party should actually take an interest in such an important political position is troubling to a few and late in coming for most of us.

At the base of this fear that conservatives might get involved in more elections that matter in Mesa County is the anxiety that Mesa County’s District 51 could become the next (imagine crashing organ music here) Douglas County!

That’s right, the Douglas County School Board, the wooden stake pressed against the heart of Colorado’s big union education lobby. The genesis of this metaphorical Van Helsing is interesting and instructive for Western Colorado.

The California website Unionwatch details it rather succinctly, pointing out that in 2009 the Douglas County Republican Party had gotten involved in races for local utility boards that had become hotbeds of activist behavior damaging to the gas and coal industry.

Coming to the realization that radical local boards often had more effect on local dollars than Washington, the Douglas County GOP then took a look at the school board and realized substantial change was in order.

Over the next two election cycles, the GOP helped secure all the board seats for more conservative candidates. It also noticed, according to Unionwatch, that “the school district’s union was collecting $1.3 million in dues per year, and was sending $850,000 of that back to the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) headquarters in Washington.” The school board instructed the district payroll system to not collect union money and forced the union to collect its own dues.

At the expiration of the last union contract, the board decided to negotiate directly with teachers, including merit pay and liability insurance in the contracts. In 2012 the board instituted a school voucher-type program that was the kickoff for what has since become a cottage industry for the ACLU and education pressure groups of suing and demagoging the Douglas County school board. The Colorado Court of Appeals refused an injunction to stop implementation of the voucher system.

The Douglas County school system is the third largest in the state, with more than 63,000 students, and has been having success following the implementation of these programs. Clearly, the left cannot let this stand.

Reducing public assistance to collect union dues to be recycled back through party apparatus and special-interest groups is bad enough, but to unions, school choice and direct negotiation with employees are like tanning beds at a Dracula family reunion.

There’s an old Buddhist homily that seems instructive here: A traveler meets the Buddha on the road. Apparently Buddha runs a lot of errands, probably for Mrs. Buddha who runs out of things like spicy karma and so forth in the kitchen.

Buddha seems unusually aware, so the traveler asks him if he is merely a man, the Buddha says no. He has the same answer when asked if he is a God. He says he is simply “awake.”

Conservatives might be waking up to how things work.

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


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