What could I do if I had $18 for every one of your dollars? I could buy an election! 18-to-1 is the ratio of campaign contributions between the union-backed candidates and all other candidates for the Adams 12 school board. Union-funded Kathy Plomer and Amy Speers have a combined war chest of nearly $80,000, over $74,000 of which has come from the District Twelve Educators Association (DTEA), Colorado Education Association (CEA) state headquarters, and union-friendly PACs.
Why, might you ask are union leaders spending so much on this election? The simple truth is that if they win the two contested positions, they unseat a majority that has dared to challenge union authority for the first time in 40 years, or to end what DTEA President Dorian Delong calls a 40-year “collaboration.”
Perhaps Mr. Delong should have used the word “collusion.” That term highlights exactly what is at stake. Contract negotiations over public funds and policies could have an honest broker representing taxpayers, parents and students. Or both sides could be controlled by a powerful special interest whose perks, paychecks, performance evaluations, even their parking spots, are determined by the outcome of school board negotiations.
Here is the rub: retirement contributions. School district employees receive the average of their three highest years of pay for retirement annually, through PERA. This amount can reach into six figures for a teacher employed for 20 years. Up to 1,000 teachers in Adams 12 will also receive an $80,000 retirement bonus.
It’s no surprise then that PERA is in trouble. When faced with a funding shortfall, the current reform-minded board utilized a provision in state law and asked that DTEA members pay an additional 2 percent into their retirement. The board also froze automatic pay increases, saving 120 teaching positions. Orchestrated by CEA officials, DTEA and other union members protested wildly at board meetings. They also spoke about the poor kids who lost middle school sports and parents who were paying higher fees (policies that were implemented long before the PERA issue).
The last contract was just negotiated. Union leaders successfully resisted the board’s calls to open bargaining sessions to public view. Through increased state money and a thorough budget review, the board was able to restore scheduled teacher raises. However, the PERA policy remains.
Since then, there have been no public protests or tearful public lamenting about middle school sports or higher parent fees, leading this voter to believe the protests were never about “the children.” DTEA won the latest battle, and now they are staking big money on winning the war to regain control of the negotiation table.
Hopefully, voters will understand what is at stake: education reform and sound budgeting. Our kids deserve better than a school board run by the union.
Joseph Hein is a taxpayer and parent who lives in the Adams 12 School District.