Betsy DeVos Bombs in Education Sec. Confirmation Hearings

Betsy DeVos might want to do a little homework before she next talks to the Senate.

Holy crap, Betsy DeVos! President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education had her first Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday evening, and it did not go well was an absolute train wreck.

As the Washington Post reports (as well as Mother Jones, Slate, and a number of other media outlets), DeVos might be the most ill-prepared cabinet nominee we’ve seen in quite some time:

At her contentious confirmation hearing as Donald Trump’s nominee to be education secretary on Tuesday, Betsy DeVos was asked a question by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) about an important education debate involving how student progress should be measured. The query essentially rendered her speechless as she appeared not to know how to answer. When Franken told her he was upset she didn’t understand it, she did not protest.

That was just one of several moments during the hearing in which DeVos either displayed a lack of knowledge about education fundamentals or refused to answer questions that Democratic members of the Senate Education Committee believe are critical to her fitness for the job.

When Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) asked her whether she would agree that guns don’t belong in schools, she said: “I will refer back to Sen. [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Guns in schools protect kids from grizzly bears? Amazingly, this wasn’t the worst comment DeVos made on Tuesday. DeVos seemed completely unfamiliar with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; she declined to agree with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) that all schools that receive public federal funds should be held to the same standards of accountability; she botched a question about gainful employment regulations; and she seemed clueless about the debate over measuring student growth through test scores, which seems like a pretty obvious topic for discussion.

DeVos didn’t even have an answer for Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) when he asked her about lessons learned from failures in trying to implement public charter schools in Detroit (DeVos is a Michigan native who was a primary architect of Detroit’s charter schools plan). This answer to this question should have been right in her wheelhouse, but instead DeVos tried to respond to Bennet by outlining a history of Detroit.

Ladies and gentlemen, your nominee for Secretary of Education!

Top Ten Stories of 2016 #8: Orange is the New Black

Rep. Tim Leonard (R).

2016 bore witness to one of the most unusual circumstances we’ve ever seen ensnaring a sitting Colorado legislator. Rep. Tim Leonard, Republican of Evergreen, was found in contempt of court at the end of September after repeatedly violating court orders regarding the custody of his children. According to the very few news reports available about this ruling at the time, Leonard’s former spouse had been awarded education decisionmaking authority over their children–a ruling Leonard disregarded is various apparently peevish ways in disputes with his ex-wife ranging from testing opt-outs to the use of iPads in instruction.

Most news media declined to report on this ruling before the election, calling it a personal matter that would be inappropriate to cover–but Democrats made a last-ditch attempt to publicize the situation in mailers supporting Leonard’s Democratic opponent Tammy Story. It’s very possible that if this story had been covered at the end of September, which a Jefferson County magistrate basically told Leonard he was going to be locked up, it might have effected the outcome of the race for his seat.

The local media’s questionable decision to suppress this story was reversed on December 9th, when Rep. Leonard was handcuffed and sentenced to 14 days in Jefferson County jail–a severe penalty that underscores how far Leonard had gone in violation of the court’s orders. To be sentenced to serve jail time over these kind of mundane civil proceedings indicates the judge considered Leonard willfully defiant of the court’s orders. Once Leonard was “dressed in” and his mugshot made public, he was the lead story on the news that night.

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Michael Johnston’s Next Big Thing

Sen. Michael Johnston (D).

Chalkbeat Colorado’s Nic Garcia reports on the feelers being put out by term-limited Democratic state Sen. Michael Johnston about a potential gubernatorial run in 2018:

State Sen. Michael Johnston, a former principal who designed the state’s landmark teacher evaluation law and is a prominent figure in Colorado’s education reform movement, is considering joining what could be a crowded Democratic primary field for the 2018 governor’s race.

Johnston’s name has appeared in early reports speculating about potential candidates, and he has confirmed to Chalkbeat and other media that he is weighing a run…

“The question for me is, ‘Where can you make the most impact on the issues you care about?’” Johnston said in an interview Thursday. “(It’s) not ‘What is it that you want to be?’ But, ‘What is it that you want to change?’”

Sen. Johnston has a record as a solid progressive Democrat, among many other accomplishments being a lead voice for passage of the post-Aurora theater shooter gun safety bills in 2013. Where Johnston runs into trouble, however, is with his support for right-leaning education “reform” plans–including sponsorship of a hotly controversial bill in 2010 that implemented “teacher effectiveness” standards. Senate Bill 10-191 has created lasting rifts with the predominately Democratic education community in Colorado, and puts Sen. Johnston in particular as the Democratic face of the legislation in a difficult position with a significant segment of that party’s rank and file.

It remains a fact that a number of candidates senior to Johnston in terms of experience and name ID are considering a run. Johnston’s notoriety in education policy, contrary to his own party’s traditional politics though it may be, likely does give him great career paths after two terms in the Colorado Senate.

As far as running for governor of Colorado in 2018 is concerned, however, the path is a little muddy.

Dems Take Ed Board: End of the Reign of the “Prince of Darkness”

Rebecca McClellan.

Rebecca McClellan.

As Chalkbeat Colorado’s Nic Garcia reported this weekend, and it’s an important endnote on the recent elections: Democrats will take control of the Colorado Board of Education for the first time in nearly 50 years after a squeaker of a win for Democratic CD-6 board candidate Rebecca McClellan.

Democratic challenger Rebecca McClellan has outlasted incumbent Republican Debora Scheffel in a hard-fought State Board of Education race that extended beyond Election Day, handing Democrats control of the governing board for the first time in nearly 50 years.

McClellan, a former Centennial City Council member, has an insurmountable lead of 1,296 votes over Debora Scheffel, a career educator and dean of the School of Education at Colorado Christian University, according to the latest unofficial results released Friday…

“It’s exciting, very exciting” McClellan told Chalkbeat. “I think that people in the district really believe in public education, particularly in the Cherry Creek School District. … It’s not a trivial matter. I think people want to see their public schools preserved.”

Steve Durham.

Steve Durham.

McClellan’s narrow victory is nonetheless expected to have a large impact on the future course of the Board of Education, which has been dominated in recent years by less-than-serious right-wing ideologues who have rendered the body almost a malevolent influence on public education in the state. Dogmatic crusades against important public health surveys and programs, and bizarre spates of conspiracy theorizing from board member and longtime Capitol lobbyist Steve “Prince of Darkness” Durham have overshadowed the board’s less controversial work–which led in part to the decision by Republican Board Chair Marcia Neal to resign last year.

Well folks, in a photo finish, it’s a new day for the Colorado Board of Ed.

Checking Ben$on: The CU Regent Race’s Backstory

CU President Bruce Ben$on.

CU President Bruce Ben$on.

With Election Day finally upon us, a race that’s been simmering in the background for most of this election season could loom large for the future of one of Colorado’s foremost Republican elder statesmen–as the Denver Post’s Monte Whaley reported last week:

Heated political partisanship in Colorado is reaching into the race for the at-large seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents, changing a usually tame contest into one attracting big money and loud rhetoric.

The statewide election could change the face of the nine-member board, putting it in the hands of a Democratic majority for the first time in nearly 40 years. Republican Heidi Ganahl and her allies say if the Democrats take over, it could mean the end of the tenure of Bruce Benson, a Republican who became CU president in 2008.

All that has made a historically staid run for a Board of Regent seat suddenly a hot commodity, said John Straayer, a Colorado State University political science professor and longtime political observer of Colorado elections.

“Maybe it’s because it’s a statewide race and maybe people are so sick and tired of putting their money in other bigger races,” Straayer said. “Or maybe it’s because we’ve come to a point where it’s one tribe against another, Democrat against Republican, and we are going after each other.”

The at-large CU Regent position is sometimes referred to as “the biggest statewide race you’ve never heard of,” running under the radar to other bigger-name contests higher up the ballot. But this year, the race could tip control of the University of Colorado Board of Regents to Democrats, and the well-known Alice Madden has a leg up on Republican challenger Heidi Ganahl.

This has made the significant wing of the Republican Party loyal to CU President Bruce Benson rather nervous.

We’d say Benson, a former GOP gubernatorial candidate and longtime major donor, has less to fear from Madden winning this election than Republicans are telling voters right now. With that said, Benson’s tenure has seen more than its share of political controversy–much of it a result of Benson’s obsession with “ideological diversity” on the CU campus, criticized by his opponents as “conservative affirmative action.” Benson’s creation of a visiting professorship for “conservative thought” has had mixed results at best, and the school came under fire last year after students protested their university being used as a backdrop for Republican presidential candidates while excluding them from the mostly-empty debate venue.

With Democrats in narrow control of the CU Board of Regents, what you might see from Benson and his ideological conservative agenda at the state’s flagship university is a little more restraint.

And that doesn’t sound so bad.

Poll: Who Will Win The CU Regent’s Race?

With the 2016 elections less than one week away, we’re rolling out informal, highly unscientific polls of our readers to gauge where key races and ballot measures stand. As always with our reader polls, we’re looking for your honest prediction–not your personal preference.

The race for University of Colorado At-Large Regent this year is attracting a great deal of attention, pitting well-known former Democratic lawmaker Alice Madden against Republican businesswoman Heidi Ganahl.

[cardoza_wp_poll id=36]

Rep. Tim Leonard, You’re in a World of Hurt

SUNDAY UPDATE: Via the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning, Rep. Tim Leonard’s response to the story:

leonardresponse

Here’s what’s important to remember: Rep. Leonard’s wife has the court-appointed authority to make education decisions for her kids, and Leonard does not. So when Leonard bemoans the fact that “the school requires two signatures on a form,” or that he only wants to opt the kid out from a test like any “good parent,” left unsaid is the fact that he is using these situations to meddle with his wife’s court-ordered authority–to the extent that he has been ruled in contempt of court.

Which invites a more basic question: how is it that Leonard has seen fit to file some 80 motions against his wife over their divorce, but Leonard can’t follow simple instructions from a judge about letting his wife make these decisions? We’d say the answer lies in what Leonard’s ex-wife describes as “controlling and manipulative behavior.”

Rep. Leonard’s response to this story did him no favors.

—–

Rep. Tim Leonard

Rep. Tim Leonard

A story breaking today from the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland spells bad news for one of the state’s most conservative lawmakers, Rep. Tim Leonard of Evergreen:

During a hearing in Jefferson County District Court on Sept. 29th, a magistrate scolded Leonard for repeatedly shrugging off the judge’s order and interfering with his ex-wife’s educational decisions.

This time, it could cost him his freedom.

Magistrate Marianne Marshall Tims found Leonard in contempt of court on two charges related to educational decision-making. She said she intends to enter a punitive sanction, which she told him could be a jail sentence of up to six months. But the hearing adjourned after 5 p.m. in the business day, after the bailiff had ended the shift.

“If it was earlier, Mr. Leonard, you need to know that a sheriff would be coming to take you into custody,” the magistrate said, according to a transcript of the hearing obtained by The Colorado Independent this week. [Pols emphasis]

The situation presents novel possibilities if Leonard were to be in jail for contempt of court on a civil matter at the start of the legislative session in January. Perhaps they’d let him vote from his cell? Of course, this presumes the situation Leonard finds himself in doesn’t cost him his seat on November 8th. And depending on what happens in the coming days, that’s something we wouldn’t take for granted.

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Donald Trump and the recalled Jeffco school board: you won’t believe this

In 2015, I was proud to join my Jefferson County neighbors as we reclaimed our school board from far-right radicals who took control two years before. We literally made #JeffcoSchoolBoardHistory. After watching the school board attack the teachers and schools that make Jeffco one of the best places to raise a family in America, by an overwhelming 65% margin, we ended the ability of Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams to play ideological games with Colorado’s finest public schools–recalling them and replacing them with a clean slate that restored dignity and community respect to the Jeffco school board.

Unfortunately, Ken Witt, president of the recalled board, isn’t finished trying to harm public education in Colorado just yet. Last week, Donald Trump announced that Witt is the Trump campaign’s state “education coalition co-chair.”

Sign our petition: tell Trump to dump Ken Witt right now.

If there was anyone left in Jefferson County undecided about Donald Trump, choosing Ken Witt as his education co-chair in Colorado should settle the question. Trump couldn’t pick a more divisive figure of his campaign for our state if he tried. Witt’s disastrous tenure as president of the Jefferson County school board was beset with allegations of bullying students, hostility to teachers, breaking promises to voters on spending tax dollars, and dubious “reviews” of history curriculum to ensure what’s taught in the classroom doesn’t offend conservatives.

Tell Donald Trump to cut ties with Ken Witt for the sake of every child in Colorado.

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Trump Campaign’s Colorado Education Co-Chair…Wait, What?!

Recalled Jefferson County School Board President Ken Witt.

Recalled Jefferson County School Board President Ken Witt.

Denver7’s Deb Stanley reports, get ready for a spit take:

The Trump-Pence Colorado campaign is creating numerous coalitions in Colorado to target various group of voters.

The coalitions include African Americans for Trump, Women for Trump, the Education/School choice coalition, the Sportsmen coalition, the Agricultural coalition and the Faith coalition…

“These leaders are contributing valuable time and energy in order to advance Mr. Trump’s conservative message to a range of important groups and organizations throughout the state,” said Colorado State Director Patrick Davis. “With their help, Coloradans will reject the third Obama term that Hillary Clinton represents and will vote for change in November.”

Plenty of B-List names you’ll nonetheless recognize if you’re familiar with Republican politics on this list, including Jerry Natividad and and Derrick Wilburn representing Hispanics for Trump and African-Americans for Trump respectively. Former state Rep. B.J. Nikkel is heading up Women for Trump along with RNC member Lilly Nunez.

But the aforementioned spit take will come when you get to the choice of Trump’s education co-chair:

The Education/School choice coalition will be led by Dr. Jim Geddes, Colorado’s 6th Congressional District on the CU Board of Regents and businessman and consultant Ken Witt. [Pols emphasis]

Note how Ken Witt’s biggest qualification to serve as the campaign’s education “expert,” being elected to the Jefferson County, Colorado Board of Education, isn’t listed? That’s probably because Ken Witt, along with his fellow right-wing board members Julie Williams and John Newkirk, were recalled last year by a lopsided 65% of the vote. “WNW” were recalled after spending two years outraging Jeffco students and parents with their open hostility to teachers and bizarre ideological flights of fancy–such as the proposal to “review” the district’s AP history course for politically objectionable content, and Williams calling on Jeffco parents to keep their kids out of school on a day when bullying against LGBT students was being protested.

[NOTE: As Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Independent points out in the comments below, Jim Geddes hasn’t been a CU Regent since 2004 and is currently a member of the Douglas County School Board.]

We can’t claim to be shocked by much that comes out of the Trump campaign at this point, but the selection of Witt as Trump’s education co-chair in Colorado is really shockingly tone-deaf. To the extent that voters in Jefferson County ever learn that Witt is affiliated with Trump’s campaign, it’s going to motivate them even more to turn out against Trump on Election Day. Jefferson County is widely considered a bellwether for the entire state, and we would be hard pressed to imagine a more self-injurious pick for winning over Jeffco voters.

If anything, this baffling choice might keep alive the persistent rumors that Trump is trying to lose.

ICYMI: What the Hell Are You Doing, Douglas County?

As FOX31 Denver reports:

The Douglas County School District has purchased 10 long rifles for its armed security officers.

The Bushmaster long rifles will not be housed on school grounds. They will be locked up at the district security office and bus depot along Highway 85.

“The weapons currently every day will be inside of a locked safe in a secured room inside the security department. They’ll be deployed into a locking mechanism that is inside our patrol vehicles very similar to the locking mechanisms that are inside law enforcement patrol vehicles and they will only be deployed if there is a situation where they need to be deployed,” Director of Safety and Security Rich Payne said.

The long rifles and equipment cost the district $12,300.

What? Why? This is fucking insane.

A Few Words on that Child Abuser/DPS Board Appointee

standholmes

MiDian Holmes.

MiDian Holmes.

We wanted to make sure the recent controversy on the Denver Public Schools board, in which a newly-appointed school board member connected to the corporate-backed education “reform” group Stand for Children was exposed in the media as having been convicted of child abuse, didn’t get too far in the rear-view mirror without a mention. Eric Gorski and Melanie Asmar at Chalkbeat Colorado reported last Thursday:

MiDian Holmes announced on her Facebook page Thursday night that she would not accept her appointment to the Denver school board, saying she did not want to be a distraction after details of a misdemeanor child abuse conviction became public…

In 2005, she was charged with “wrongs to minors” in violation of the Denver municipal code. Documents explaining what led to the charge were not immediately available. Holmes was sentenced to a year of probation, after which the case was dismissed.

In 2006, she was charged with child abuse in violation of state law. Documents reveal that Holmes left her three young children — age 7, 6 and 2 — home alone for more than eight hours while she was at work. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse and again was sentenced to probation.

FOX 31 reported more details from MiDian Holmes’ second child abuse case, which Holmes was reportedly not completely honest about with the DPS board that appointed her:

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Senate GOP Spox Thwarted By Senate GOP (Again)

Over the past week or so the Colorado Senate GOP Majority Office has loudly promoted Senate Bill 16-148, legislation that would have required high school students to pass an exam on civics patterned on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Test. This bill had bipartisan co-sponsors in the House and Senate, but was primarily the brainchild of principal Senate sponsor GOP Sen. Owen Hill.

On Twitter, Senate Americans For Prosperity GOP spokesman Sean Paige leaned hard on this bill to attack legislative Democrats–despite the bill’s Democratic cosponsors in both chambers:

As you can see, the Senate GOP’s press office was dead-set on making the debate over Senate Bill 148 a partisan issue, regardless of how many Democrats signed on as cosponsors. But today on the Senate floor, something else entirely happened:

That’s right! Senate Bill 148 died today after two Republican Senators, Jerry Sonnenberg and Ray Scott, cited existing burdens on school districts–especially rural districts they represent in the General Assembly–as a reason to reject another “mandate.”

To be clear, our purpose today is not to debate the merits of this defeated bill. We’ve heard good arguments for and against it, and as we noted the bill had bipartisan support and sponsorship. But folks, what the hell is Senate President Bill Cadman’s spokesman doing attacking Democrats on a bill for which he obviously should have done a whip count of his own caucus before popping off?

In any other situation, we’d call this very bad spokesmanship. But the truth, as has been the inside scoop at the Capitol all year, is that Americans For Prosperity’s former spox Sean Paige doesn’t have this job to represent the Senate GOP majority.

All he did here was prove that again.

Derailing Ed Reform With Colorado Senate Republicans

From top: Sens. Owen Hill, Vicki Marble, Tim Neville, Laura Woods, Chris Holbert.

From top: Sens. Owen Hill, Vicki Marble, Tim Neville, Laura Woods, Chris Holbert.

Chalkbeat Colorado’s Todd Engdahl reports on another odd development in the GOP-controlled Senate Education Committee, where a bipartisan bill to alleviate high-stakes testing pressure on high school freshmen in Colorado went off the rails yesterday:

A bill that would ban mandatory state language arts and math tests in ninth grade cleared the Senate Education Committee Thursday. But the panel added seemingly extraneous amendments that are likely to reduce the bill’s already slim chances of passing the full legislature.

The original version of the bill merely would have banned ninth grade testing and was sponsored by conservative Republican Sen. Vicki Marble of Fort Collins, along with liberal Democratic Sen. Mike Merrifield of Colorado Springs and two committee Republicans. All the sponsors were dissatisfied with last session’s compromise testing law, which retained ninth grade exams.

But from there, bipartisan consensus came apart as bizarre GOP amendments piled on–in particular:

Rural districts that chose not to give the ninth grade tests would be allowed to hire non-licensed teachers… [Pols emphasis]

That’s right–Republicans actually passed an amendment to this bill allowing unlicensed teachers to be hired in rural school districts.

“I’m baffled by the amendment,” said Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora.

“I see absolute no connection,” said Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood. “This completely changes the direction of the bill.”

Hill offered no detailed rationale for the changes, either during discussion or during a brief hallway interview after the hearing…

It’s anybody’s guess what Sen. Owen Hill was trying to achieve with this amendment, but the rest of the Senate Education Committee including top-tier Democratic target Sen. Laura Waters Woods all jumped on board. Earlier in this same hearing, a bill for tax credits to offset private school tuition passed on a party-line vote. Perhaps this bill to eliminate ninth grade testing was a little too bipartisan, and Hill needed to spike it?

Whatever the reason, you had Senate Republicans yesterday, including their most vulnerable incumbent, voting for private school vouchers–and then voting to let unlicensed teachers into rural schools. The grand scheme at work here had better be good, because on any normal day we’d call these highly toxic votes.

“Militia Class” At Pueblo County Middle School?

Reporter Lena Howland of KRDO handles guns in a Colorado City middle school.

Reporter Lena Howland of KRDO handles guns in a Colorado City middle school.

A reader forwarded us this rather alarming story from KRDO-13 out of Pueblo County yesterday, about a course offered to middle school students in Colorado City:

“It’s a lot of guns to have in a school, especially because you don’t have this many just at your house or something,” 8th grade student Courtney Proctor said.

[Jim] Heath, a state coordinator of Project Appleseed, brought the three day program to Craver Middle School. The course aims to teach people across the country how to fire weapons accurately and safely, with a foundation of American history…

Volunteers from Project Appleseed and the NRA worked with the students to eliminate the element of fear associated with guns.

At first blush, a course in gun safety and marksmanship doesn’t seem that out of place, especially in a small-town setting like Colorado City. In today’s climate of paranoia over even the slightest perception of being “anti-gun,” a public school’s course on gun safety in a small Colorado town is not something big-city Democrats would want to take the political risk of meddling with.

"Redcoat" Appleseed silhouette targets.

“Redcoat” Appleseed silhouette targets.

The problem is, if you look into this “Project Appleseed,” as the New York Times did a few years ago, there seems to be a lot more going on here than “gun safety.”

So far Appleseed has taught 25,000 people to shoot; 7,000 more will learn by the end of this year. Its instructors teach this skill not for the purpose of hunting or sport. [Pols emphasis] They see marksmanship as fundamental to Americans’ ability to defend their liberty, whether against foreigners or the agents of a (hypothetical) tyrannical government. Appleseed frames this activity as being somewhere between a historical re-enactment and a viable last resort…

Inside the Appleseed Project, the question of where an armed citizenry should draw this line remains open. [Pols emphasis] Later that week, as he sipped a Coke at a nearby McDonald’s, [founder Jim] Dailey flirted with an answer. “If you ever have to reach for your guns, you’ve lost before you started,” he said, and then doubled back. “Now, there are probably some narrow, hypothetical exceptions to that. Like if somebody in the government said, ‘We’re taking over the country.’ You might find there’d be a spontaneous. . . . I don’t know. I don’t know what it would be. And to be perfectly honest with you, I wouldn’t want to see it.”

…Dailey’s frustration with the government peaked during the 1990s after the fatal conflicts at Ruby Ridge and Waco. “Uncle Sam told 76 Americans to come out of their own house, lay down their arms and spread-eagle on the ground,” he says of Waco. “Does that sound to you like the sovereignty of the individual?” At that time, growing restive, he bought more than half a million pounds of rifle stocks at an army-surplus auction. He named his new venture “Fred’s,” after his dog, and wrote indictments of the Clintons and the “New World Order” that reached 94,000 readers. As the radical right gathered steam in the ’90s, Dailey’s anger fixated on the United Nations, which he saw as a metagovernment bent on covertly undermining American sovereignty. [Pols emphasis]

The Waco siege.

The Waco siege.

As you can see, Project Appleseed has motives, ulterior or not, that extend distantly beyond the stated goal of “eliminating the element of fear” about guns. In the photo you see above right from the 8th grade public school classroom the indoor portion of this course was taught in, there’s a list of grievances presumably shared by American colonists–including taxes, religious freedom, and “taking rifles away.” But to the founder of Project Appleseed, the Revolutionary War is not some remote history lesson.

It’s something they train the kids to fight. And that is a dubious thing indeed to teach in a public school.

Student Loans: This Is What Bad Press Looks Like

monopoly-clipart-nTEBqG8TAKDVR FOX 31 reported last night on the death in the Republican-controlled Senate State Affairs committee yesterday of Senate Bill 16-043, a bill to increase disclosure of terms for private student loans:

The facts haven’t changed: The average college student now graduates with nearly $30,000 in debt. In Colorado, residents collectively account for more than $40 billion in student loans…

“I am $100,000 in debt,” Shannon Leaseu said. “I’ve had to sell my house and my furniture because my house and my student loan bill was as much as my mortgage.”

Leaseu was one of several students who testified in front of the State Affairs Committee in favor of a bill that would require private lenders to more fully disclose what students will owe after they graduate.

“This is the know before you owe bill,” State Sen. Morgan Carroll said. “The student debt crisis is impacting everybody regardless of party.”

The Aurora Sentinel’s Quincy Snowdon has more on what the bill would have done:

Senate Bill 43 would have bolstered protections for students taking out private loans by requiring lenders to disclose interest rates, penalty fees, payment options, cancellation procedures, how to qualify for federal loans and the eventual total amount of the loan, including interest. The bill also would have barred lenders from providing gifts to both public and private colleges and prohibits lenders from charging students who choose to prepay their loans.

Pretty straightforward, right? Unfortunately, as FOX 31 continued, the GOP-held Senate’s “kill committee” wasn’t interested:

Only one group spoke in opposition to the legislation during the hearing, the Colorado Bankers Association.

“Private lenders take on an additional risk that government lenders do not. Government student loans can be excused in bankruptcy, private loans cannot,” said Jenifer Waller, senior vice president with the Colorado Bankers Association.

That testimony was apparently all that was needed to kill the legislation, with the committee voting against the law on a party-line vote. [Pols emphasis]

In addition to getting her testimony dyslexically backward, the Colorado Bankers Association lobbyist who was the sole witness against this bill was not being entirely truthful. Under the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, most “private” student loans were reclassified to make them non-dischargeable in bankruptcy just like federal loans. Borrowers must in either case prove that repayment would cause an “undue hardship.” Prior to bankruptcy “reform,” private loans were more easily dischargeable.

But we digress: none of that would have even mattered to the GOP’s “kill committee.”

Out-of-control student debt is an enormous crisis affecting millions of Americans. It’s an underreported issue with great importance to the pocketbooks of individuals and families across Colorado. Prosecuted correctly, the political value of the issue could be decisive in a close election–more likely with each passing year as more and more Americans fall into the trap.

When that happens, if you value your career you won’t want to be the one siding with the lenders.

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