Friday, October 30, 2015

9KUSA: Balance of Power – Jefferson County Recall Election

Photo: 9News
The million-dollar election battle in the Jefferson County School District has the attention of local and national Democrats, their labor allies, Republicans and conservative super PACs. Brandon Rittiman hosted a Balance of Power session with 9 News education specialist Nelson Garcia.

Some observations on the election:
  • Jefferson County is a battleground for suburban education reform in the county. Clearly, opponents of the type of change promoted by the new conservative board were so concerned about losing control of the school district, they mounted an unprecedented recall election. They have constructed a slate of five candidates to take total control of the district.
  • Douglas County School District coming under the control of conservatives and reformers with charter schools, not recognizing the teachers union contract and vouchers (now in court ordered abeyance), helped motivate the Jefferson County strategy. After a major 2013 effort to retake control in Douglas County failed, the Jeffco parent and union activists decided to not wait for re-election but use a recall.
  • Money is pouring into the race from labor and local liberal allies and national conservative groups, including the PAC run by the Koch Brothers.
  • This is the third school district where massive amounts of money is weighting in for essentially non-paid school board positions. Denver started the battle when local reform business groups and liberals dissatisfied with the pace of improvements took over the board to institute performance pay (although 90% of teachers get the raises), charter schools (unions really dislike alternatives to their control) and higher standards. Douglas became Colorado’s first wealthy suburban Republican county to see a reform drive from the right. Now Jefferson County, one of Colorado’s swing political counties (leaning slightly Democratic in statewide elections) is the center of the fight.
  • Schools are very big business in the suburbs. Upwards of 10 percent of voters say they or their families work in the public school system, Schools are the largest employer, paying top government salaries with lots of benefits and job protection. Jefferson County School District is the second largest in the state, just behind Denver.
  • The pro recall forces are assumed to have the election advantage.
9News: JeffCo recall gets underway
CPR: JeffCo recall election spending could be over $1 million
Denver Post: Jeffco recall supporters turn in more than 30,000 signatures
Chalkbeat Colorado: Why the tug-of-war for Jefferson County’s school board isn’t just about local classrooms
Chalkbeat Colorado: These three Jefferson County residents want to be your next school board majority
Chalkbeat Colorado: Organizers say they have double the signatures necessary for a Jeffco school board recall
Complete Colorado: 9News segment: Recall is about union control, power

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