Education, Jefferson County

9News segment: Recall is about union control, power

File photo - Todd Shepherd
File photo – Todd Shepherd

The October 25 edition of 9News’ political show, Balance of Power, cleared away the Halloween cobwebs and laid bare an essential truth: The Jefferson County recall is primarily about teachers unions, their power, and doing things the way they’ve always done them.

Early in the segment, 9News education reporter, Nelson Garcia, said, “Essentially, the fight is over what the conservative reform movement is trying to do to schools, and what the traditional union-backed school board members have done over the past several decades.”

9News political reporter and Balance of Power host Brandon Rittiman emphasized the union thread again, turning to ask political analyst Floyd Ciruli, “This gets broken down into all kinds of fights over various policies, but at the heart of this, isn’t there just a big disagreement about unions at play here?”

“I think that may be the key to it,” Ciruli answered. “Although there’s also a sort of philosophical difference over how schools should be run. Should there be more choice for parents? Which would happen to be probably schools that are non-union. Should there be performance pay? Which [the] teachers union largely resists, or like to control.”

When Rittiman asked Ciruli where the money was coming from in the race, Ciruli again couldn’t help but acknowledge the union role right off the bat. “Well, as you know, the union fundamentally started this fight in terms of wanting its majority back, which it had before 2013, so it started the recall.”

Finally, Rittiman asked Ciruli, “If these reform majorities manage to hang on, if they survive this recall effort, does this spread beyond Jeffco and Douglas County?”

“Oh I definitely think so,” Ciruli answered. “What was surprising is that the reform board hung on in Douglas County. I think to some extent the union decided — and there’re other supporters, there’s parents and other people, not just the unions — but they decided it would be best not to wait for the regular election cycle and give these people four years to try and enact their reforms. Let’s do it as quickly as possible. And I think that’s why we’re having this recall. If (the unions) lose, and the reform — the incumbents — win, I think that that will not only embolden that movement to other school districts, but I also think it will send a powerful national message, that (of) the unions being rocked back on its heels, in this sort of battleground state that everyone pays attention to.”

Two recent reports by Complete Colorado education reporter Sherrie Peif (here, and here) give additional summaries and new evidence showing the union muscle behind the Jeffco recall.

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