Douglas County, Colorado is one to watch. For too long, an aggressively unprofessional school board has been playing politics with the schools, rather than concerning themselves with serving the community’s children. Now, an important election is coming up, and it can change the current destructive course with four board seats being contested.
I had the chance to meet the parents who are working tirelessly to promote change and get new faces into the seats up for grabs. There is both visceral anger and fear among these folks, and they fear for the futures of their kids and their community. The stakes are high. Douglas County schools are not urban and they’re not failing — not a usual target for privatizers — and we’re seeing a different strategy at play. The drive from the current board is to create “niche” schools, where students are tested, matched to a future career based on the scores, and then eventually placed into a niche school where they fit best, based on those criteria.
Parents aren’t okay with that. And neither are most community members, since it is probably the least democratic way to run a school system that we’ve seen so far in this country.
So, we have four challengers running for school board, and the grassroots movement to get them elected has been very active. Hundreds of volunteers spend every hour of free time canvassing, picketing, attending meetings and forums, and speaking to anyone who will listen.
Apparently, it’s working, because the “other side” is getting nervous. So nervous, in fact, that they’ve decided to call in the cavalry. Scott Gessler, the current Secretary of State and candidate for Colorado Governor, has put out the call to counter the grassroots movement with his own offensive. He’s even (cough) heroically put his campaign for governor on hold to support the decidedly partisan corporate candidates running for Douglas County — the candidates who support the niche campaign. And by “support,” I mean “pay for.”
There are some striking differences between the two sides.
Douglas County parents and teachers volunteer their time and money to support their candidates.
Douglas County privatizers spend corporate money to trash them. Look at the comparison below:
In an email sent out today, Gessler has called for the recruiting of door-knockers and other opportunities, which may be paid jobs. In other words, he has begun to recruit a mercenary army of “supporters” to start fighting against the parents, teachers, and students of Douglas County. (Conflict of interest, much?) Why does he feel he needs to pay for this kind of support? In his email, he explains it pretty well:
I’m a firm believer that we conservatives need to be team players. That means sometimes we do something that’s inconvenient or difficult because it advances the cause of liberty that we all believe in.
Is it me, or did he just call his base and his followers lazy? Well, I know for certain he misused the word “liberty.”
It’s interesting that he thinks all conservatives follow his corporate line of propaganda, because I know for a fact that they don’t. The Douglas County residents that are fighting to get their schools back are a huge mix of every political and ideological background you can imagine. Gessler isn’t a conservative; he is a corporatist. He has billionaires and privatizers behind him. As we’ve seen in recent months, that’s not enough anymore.
My fingers are crossed for my friends in Douglas County. I will be holding my breath as the ballot counts are announced November 5. But, I also know that Chase, Hodges, Keim, and Scholting have already won. That’s because parents and teachers won’t let partisan bickering, lies, and propaganda put their most important values at risk: freedom, democratic processes, and their kids’ futures.