CASTLE ROCK – State Representative Patrick Neville has three daughters. Each one with their own personalities and their own learning styles.
So it comes as no surprise that the Republican who represents Douglas County in the State House wants to make sure that he has a choice of where they go to school.
However, if the “Dream Team” slate of candidates, which include Anthony Graziano, Krista Holtzmann, Kevin Leung and Chris Schor, are elected, Neville said he worries he will lose his right to make decisions based on what’s best for his family.
Neville said the current minority board members who also support the union-backed slate are so anti-charter he worries about the effect on the district if they become the majority.
“Parents in our charter schools have serious worries,” Neville said. “I don’t think we (would) ever see another charter school again.”
That slate of candidates is being backed by The American Federation Teachers (AFT), whose President Randi Weingarten said earlier this year that school choice supporters were “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.”
She has vocally attacked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, calling her a “public school denier” among other things.
“The moment we’re in is the result of an intentional, decades-long campaign to protect the economic and political power of the few against the rights of the many,” Weingarten said in her AFT speech. “It has taken the form of division—expressing itself as racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia and homophobia.”
AFT and one of its campaign committees AFT Solidarity have pumped at least $600,000 into the race to get their candidates, which some have also dubbed the “CommUnity” slate, elected.
Neville said he is worried about the state of the district if the union-backed slate is elected.
Charter schools have “kept us from having to raise taxes,” Neville said. “What they will do is never approve another charter school. We have a growing Douglas County, so we’ll have to pay for (new schools), and it’s going to bankrupt the district trying to raise taxes.”
In fact, after the National Education Association pumped more than $200,000 into the Jefferson County school board races in 2015, the new union-backed board there went to voters the very next election and asked for $535 million in bonds and a $33 million mill levy override.
Voters rejected both.
Neville also pointed out that all the charter schools in the district currently have waiting lists, some as high as 2,000 or more names.
“People want in,” Neville said. “They want to go to that type of school. So why wouldn’t we let more of them accommodate our student growth instead of raising taxes.”
Neville said the sheer amount of money being pumped in from the AFT is proof the unions are willing to go to any length to regain a monopoly on education.
The group Douglas Schools for Douglas Kids has reported $400,000 in donations, $300,000 from AFT and $100,000 from the progressive group Citizens for Integrity, which generally support union-backed issues. Another $300,000 was reported after the official filing date by AFT Solidarity, a campaign financing arm of AFT.
All totaled just the one committee has raised $700,000 for a slate of unpaid school board candidates. That does not include other committees formed for the same group or the money raised by the competing slate endorsed by the Douglas County Republicans, who are fighting back against the union.
That group, dubbed Elevate Douglas County, are candidates Grant Nelson, Ryan Abresch, Randy Mills, and Debora Scheffel.
“We hope all Republicans in Douglas County will join us in support of these four who are fighting for greater educational opportunities in our schools, to expand vocational education, to respect the choices parents and families make, to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and to recruit and retain the best teachers for our schools,” the Douglas County GOP said in its statement. “Make no mistake, voting for Leung, Schor, Holtzmann, and Graziano will usher a new wave of radical liberal agenda into our schools. Don’t let our county get shAFTed.”
Combined contributions in the school board race are well over $1 million.
By contrast, Neville said his campaign for State House was no more than $15,000 and the top senate race is around $80,000.
Perhaps even more shocking is the entire 2014 race for Secretary of State, a statewide office that could be argued to be one of the most important office as it governs over all elections, raised a total of $979,483 among six candidates.
AFT has a lot to gain if they win. It’s likely the new board would reinstate collective bargaining practices, Neville said. Based on average union dues and the number of teachers in the district, that could result in more than $2 million a year to the AFT war chest.
Neville, who was a student at Columbine High School in 1999, when two of his classmates terrorized and killed 13 other classmates in one of the worst mass school shootings in American history, said he also fears for student safety if the union-backed slate wins.
“Our kids were totally vulnerable in their own schools,” Neville said of the last time Douglas County was union-controlled. “They were against hiring security guards that were armed because they don’t want guns in schools. I think most people in Douglas County would take a look at that and say having a qualified police officer in a school is a pretty good thing.”
It’s not just Neville worried about the outcome of the election, however. Earlier this week, the Denver Post Editorial Board recommended voting for the Elevate Douglas County slate, saying: The nation’s second-largest teachers union … is hoping to tip “the scales in favor of a slate of four candidates,” The Post said. “We hope the tactic misfires … the potential influence of the union is worrisome — especially if the next board recognizes the AFT as the official bargaining unit.”