It’s time for another test of the death-grip teachers unions hold over public education in Colorado. Once again, the target is the Douglas County School District. I say “once again” because DCS has been targeted before and this has become a frequent pattern in our state and around the country.
In 2009, DCS voters chose to break the mold and actually elected a conservative majority to their school board, previously controlled by members recruited, funded and loyal to the teachers union. That new board majority pursued reforms that included a rigorous curriculum of basic academics, school choice, de-emphasis of social engineering, and decertification of the teachers union. The counterattack by the union, aided by the liberal media, was swift and ruthless. Misrepresentation of the board’s policies was rampant and union propaganda was enthusiastically embraced by like-minded partisans and teachers — who had overwhelmingly voted against the conservative candidates — along with enough well-intentioned but politically naïve soccer moms. The board was flipped back to a pro-union majority in 2013.
That pattern was replicated in Jefferson County. After voters elected a rare conservative majority to its school board in 2013, the union and its coalition employed the same tactics to oust those board members in a recall election in 2015, returning union lackeys to power in their place.
That was then, this is now. In 2021, a majority of parents and taxpayers scored an upset victory in the Virginia governor’s race, revolting against teachers unions and progressive indoctrination of their kids in public schools. In this blue state, they elected Republican Glenn Youngkin who ran largely on a platform of school reform. It remains to be seen whether this was an isolated event or the beginning of a national trend.
Douglas County voters followed suit in 2021 and, once again, elected a conservative majority to their school board, rejecting the pro-union progressive slate. I’m hoping it’s because they’ve seen the light, like the Virginians, because the DCS teachers union has already launched its counterattack. Their fingerprints are all over an effort to force a recall election to remove the newly-elected conservatives.
“Waving the bloody shirt” is a political ploy (with roots in the Civil War) whereby some event or issue is used as a symbolic bloody shirt to stir up outrage and partisan support. In DCS, the bloody shirt being waived by the union and its remaining allies on the board is Superintendent Corey Wise, who was recently fired by the board’s new conservative majority.
Wise was a teacher and administrator in the district for 26 years. Mike Peterson, the new board president, explains that Wise favored the progressive agenda of the prior board and that his vision didn’t align with the reform direction the new board was taking. It’s not unusual for a new board to change supers and seek someone they believe is better suited than the incumbent, the sooner the better. The Denver Public School District’s new radically progressive board recently did just that. As DCS superintendent, Wise serves at the pleasure of the board within the terms of his contract that presumably provides for compensation upon termination. Incoming presidents, governors, mayors, and CEOs also change appointed staff as they see fit. There’s nothing controversial about that. The opposition’s claim that the DCS board majority violated sunshine laws in the process of removing Wise is also a meritless ruse.
Just as it was a pivotal issue in the Virginia parents’ revolt, the board majority plans to review and revise the DCS policy on equity instruction. (“Equity” is the sly code-word for the worst elements of America-bashing, anti-white, neo-Marxist, Critical Race Theory.) This isn’t surprising. It was a major issue they ran on as candidates and was instrumental in their election.
The union also encouraged the recent sickout by teachers protesting Wise’s termination, and is spreading rumors that teachers and other staff may quit over that. This is part of the familiar script they used in 2009, the last time a conservative board was elected. Fear not, others will fill any vacancies and DCS will remain well-staffed.
Predictably, students have gotten into the act staging their own walkouts. They’re defending their teachers and enjoy the empowerment of student activism, chanting meaningless slogans like “people over politics.” They don’t understand that politics is what the teachers unions are all about, working to elect progressive Democrats to legislatures and school boards, who return the favor and advance the unions’ special interests.
Most students don’t recognize they’re being politically indoctrinated in class. And they don’t make the distinction between individual teachers and the self-serving agenda of teachers unions. The same unions who claim their first concern is for the students demanded the unnecessary school closures that harmed so many of those students during the pandemic. This was while front-line workers in health care, nursing homes, supermarkets, airports, etc. stayed on the job. The union’s first concern is always for its dues-paying members. Everything else is tied for second.
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.
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