Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 24)

Tomorrow is Administrative Professionals Day, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

► Colorado Republicans are getting (rightfully) blasted for proposing legislation that would jail Colorado teachers for escalating their push to increase education funding. Mother Jones is just one of numerous national news outlets to pick up this story:

The bill, which is seen as a long shot to make it through the state Legislature, came just days after hundreds of Colorado educators rallied in Denver, joining educators in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona in protesting for better pay and funding for public schools. Gardner told the Denver Post on Monday that the idea for the proposed legislation emerged after the strike in West Virginia, and he noted he was open to changes in the penalty for teachers who strike, adding it was “probably most important” that unions are penalized for sponsoring a strike.

“It’s a wise thing to do, in some shape or form, in the state of Colorado because we have one district that’s already voted to strike. We have others discussing a strike,” Gardner told the Post. “Strikes are not good for children.” On Twitter, Colorado Senate Democrats slammed the bill as “anti-worker trash.”

Colorado teachers are among the lowest-paid in the entire country. 9News has a list of school districts that will be closed for students at the end of this week because of planned teacher protests.

 

► The White House is defending President Trump’s nominee for VA Secretary amid what looks to be an uphill battle for confirmation. From the Washington Post:

Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician and a former combat surgeon, was scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Wednesday. But the hearing has been delayed because of concerns about his qualifications and oversight of the White House medical staff, as well as other allegations about Jackson’s conduct that have been shared with the committee.

“We’re gonna have a hearing at some time in the future, but not Wednesday,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the chairman of the panel.

Should Jackson’s nomination fail, perhaps Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman can be a nominee so that he can later call on himself to resign. In the meantime, perhaps Trump’s administration can come up with some sort of vetting process.

 

If you’re having a difficult time keeping track of the number of sexual harassment allegations now levied against Sen. Randy Baumgardner, you are not alone. If you believe that Senate President Kevin Grantham or Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert are ever going to actually do something about these allegations…well, you might be on your own there.

 

► Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) may be finishing out his political career in 2018 after a Colorado State Supreme Court ruling tossed his name off of the June Primary ballot. Lamborn is apparently appealing the decision to a federal court, but it is unclear whether a higher court will consider his arguments. The Colorado Secretary of State’s office is supposed to finalize the Primary ballot by Friday, April 27.

This is a complete embarrassment for Lamborn even if he ultimately makes it onto the Primary ballot. Lamborn is a six-term Congressman, yet his re-election campaign struggled to collect 1,000 valid petition signatures.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Republican Lawmakers Threaten Jail Time for Underpaid Teachers

Two Colorado Springs Republicans, Rep. Paul Lundeen and Sen. Bob Gardner, are sponsoring a ridiculously tone-deaf piece of legislation targeting teachers.

The plight of underfunded schools and underpaid teachers has become a national story, with educators walking off the job in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona.

Here in Colorado, teachers have been marching on the State Capitol to demand higher wages and better school funding. Those protests will grow louder this week when teachers from three of the largest school districts in the state — Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties — descend on the State Capitol on Thursday and Friday. Teachers from multiple other school districts throughout Colorado are participating in various rallies this week, and while there are no indications that educators might go on strike, Republican lawmakers are doing their best to threaten them anyway.

Denver7 reports on a new GOP-sponsored bill in the Colorado legislature designed to have a chilling effect on the free speech rights of teachers:

The bill, SB18-264, would prohibit public school teacher strikes by authorizing school districts to seek an injunction from district court. A failure to comply with the injunction would “constitute contempt of court” and teachers could face not only fines but up to six months in county jail, the bill language reads. 

The bill also directs school districts to fire teachers on the spot without a proper hearing if they’re found in contempt of court and also bans public school teachers from getting paid “for any day which the public school teacher participates in a strike.” [Pols emphasis]

The bill, which was introduced this past Friday, is sponsored by State Rep. Paul Lundeen and Sen. Bob Gardner, both Republicans.

The story of this new legislation from Republicans is already being picked up nationally (see The Hill and Vox.com for two examples), and we would expect that you’ll be hearing about this soon from every major media outlet in the country. Colorado teachers are among the lowest paid in the country — our state ranks 46th in average teacher pay nationwide.

Administrators in Colorado have tried threatening teachers in the past, and it has usually failed spectacularly (see: McMinimee, Dan). We wouldn’t expect this move by Republicans to do any better. Colorado teachers are not promoting a strike, and those that are walking out in places like Jefferson County are taking personal days off to attend the rallies; it’s not like they are just refusing to work for the day.

Aside from the issue itself, the political ramifications here are plainly obvious. With this legislation, Republican lawmakers are publicly lining up in opposition to Colorado teachers in a manner that is absolutely unnecessary. Instead of listening to teacher arguments and nodding politely — and then doing nothing — the GOP has decided to stake out a position as a villain. And make no mistake about which side is the bad guy here; a recent poll shows that 78% of Americans believe teachers are underpaid, and half of those respondents say they would support a tax increase in order to raise teacher salaries.

With Democrats in control of the State House, there’s no way SB18-264 is going to pass anyway. Republicans are inflicting a significant political wound on themselves for no practical reason.

Johnston, Right-Wing Ed “Reform” Groups Celebrate Ruling

Michael Johnston.

Chalkbeat Colorado’s Melanie Asmar reports on a court ruling this week that went against public school teachers and in favor of Denver Public Schools administrators enforcing a landmark 2010 “teacher effectiveness” law that has split Democrats for years–and remains a thorny issue during the ongoing Democratic gubernatorial primary:

The Denver teachers who challenged a landmark state law that allows school districts to put certain experienced educators on unpaid leave lost their cases Monday.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled against the educators, who sued Denver Public Schools in 2014 alleging that the state’s largest district violated their rights to due process. Some of the teachers had lost their positions in schools and failed to get re-hired by a principal within a set period of time, which led the district to put them on unpaid leave — a move the teachers argued amounted to getting rid of them without cause or a hearing.

The district argued it was simply following a 2010 state law, known as Senate Bill 191, that changed the rules for teacher evaluations and assignments. The law allows teachers who lose their positions because of circumstances such as student enrollment declines to be put on unpaid leave if they don’t find new positions within 12 months or two hiring cycles.

The Colorado Education Association voiced its displeasure in a strongly-worded statement:

Colorado educators are very disappointed by this pair of unreasonable decisions that strip away rights of experienced educators at the expense of our students’ success. It’s baffling that during a time of teacher shortage, when we know teacher pay and working conditions do not stack up to the demands of the profession, that our courts would discard employee due process rights that provide teachers a small measure of protection against arbitrary actions. Today’s decisions sweeps those protections away to the detriment of our schools and the students they serve.

The proponents of Senate Bill 191 explicitly asserted that they were not repealing the due process rights of experienced teachers, yet that is what the Court decided to do today. The CEA will take our fight for teachers due process rights back to the legislature to fix an education system that continues to operate with serious flaws to the detriment of our schools and students. We need to keep the focus of evaluation where it belongs – improving the professional practice of teachers and the public education experience for Colorado children. Colorado’s well-documented teacher shortage has causes rooted in economics; however, we can’t ignore the consequences of SB-191 in draining teacher morale and agitating career dissatisfaction. [Pols emphasis]

But who else had something to say about yesterday’s ruling, you ask?

Gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, a former educator and state senator who sponsored Senate Bill 191, said in a statement that “we all share the same goal: to do what’s right for Colorado’s kids.”

“With today’s decision,” Johnston said, “we can move forward in that spirit and work together to improve achievement for students across the state.”

Mike Johnston was backed up in Asmar’s story by Ready Colorado, a conservative education policy organization described as “small group of well-established Colorado Republicans…aiming to make education reform a top priority for the GOP again.” While the chicken/egg order of origination isn’t clear, Johnston’s “teacher effectiveness” bill is now model language at the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for use by conservative lawmakers in other states. At the same time, SB-191 has been widely blamed for contributing the shortage of teachers in Colorado–and also for driving out qualified instructors who simply don’t want to have their intelligence insulted.

With all of this in mind, what you have here is a “victory” that Johnston won’t be celebrating–at least not during a Democratic primary. Arguably Johnston’s biggest achievement in the Colorado General Assembly, there’s little to suggest eight years later that this legislation has done anything other than increase enmity between teachers and administrators and turn qualified candidates away from the profession.

Congratulations, Mike.

Uh Oh, Betsy DeVos

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

As CNN reports, the White House is not at all pleased with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos following a disastrous series of television interviews:

White House officials were alarmed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ struggle to answer basic questions about the nation’s schools and failure to defend the administration’s newly proposed school safety measures during a tour of television interviews Sunday and Monday, according to two sources familiar with their reaction.

Though DeVos was sworn in to her Cabinet position 13 months ago, she stumbled her way through a pointed “60 Minutes” interview with CBS’ Lesley Stahl Sunday night and was unable to defend her belief that public schools can perform better when funding is diverted to the expansion of public charter schools and private school vouchers. At one point, she admitted she hasn’t “intentionally” visited underperforming schools.

“I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them,” DeVos said, as Stahl suggested that DeVos visit those underperforming schools.

Things worsened as DeVos continued her cable television tour Monday morning. The White House released its proposals for school safety measures after a shooting in Florida killed 17 people. Part of the proposal includes a task force to examine ways to prevent future mass shootings, headed by DeVos. Though the proposals don’t include raising the age limit to purchase firearms from 18 to 21 — as President Donald Trump once suggested — DeVos told Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “Today” show that “everything is on the table.”

DeVos is no stranger to mucking up interviews, either with reporters or Members of Congress. DeVos’ confirmation as Secretary of Education was nearly derailed early last year after she appeared to be unable to answer some fairly basic questions and infamously said that guns in schools were a good deterrent for grizzly bears. DeVos ultimately made it through her confirmation hearings thanks in part to the support of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and a tie-breaking vote from the Vice President.

DeVos might have reason to worry about her job if not for the fact that there is already a 43% attrition rate in the Trump administration.

Minnesota RWNJ Avoids HS Dems Club, Blames #MeToo

On Friday, December 15, 2017, the Alexandria Area High School Democrats Club invited their Minnesota State Representative Mary Franson (R)  to speak with them. Rep. Franson declined, saying first that she wouldn’t meet with a “partisan group”.

Screen cap of Rep. Franson's reply to AAHS students

The students called  ten times, tried to set up meetings at Franson’s office and elsewhere, but she kept refusing to meet with them. They were constituents, they said, who wanted to discuss issues of concern: college tuition and climate change.  Then, Franson brought a whole new level of ugly to the exchange by claiming that she could not be alone with minors because of the #metoo movement.

In the face of Franson’s increasingly snarky and contemptuous refusals, the students decided to share their exchanges on Twitter.

The exchange went viral, and is now a national story. Franson finally met with several of the students, but deleted her Tweets to AAHS from her Twitter history. However, screen captures preserved it for posterity.

Congratulations to the AAHS Dems. Your perseverance and savvy on social media paid off. Now, would you mind coming to Colorado? We have a few Senators that share Franson’s attitudes about meeting with constitutents….

CU Grad Students Ask Why GOP Wants To Screw Them Over

CU-Boulder.

As the Boulder Daily Camera’s Elizabeth Hernandez reports–yesterday on the campus of the University of Colorado, graduate students turned out to protest the Republican tax legislation that passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month. The version passed by the House includes a head-scratching provision that requires grad students who work at teaching or on research projects to offset tuition costs to declare money they never actually see as taxable income:

About 100 University of Colorado graduate students and supporters packed the University Memorial Center fountain area Wednesday morning to protest the proposed Republican tax plan that would dramatically increase taxes for many students around the nation.

Hasti Rahemi, a Ph.D. student in CU’s Leeds School of Business, was among the crowd lamenting whether she’d even be able to finish her studies if the plan passed…

Depending on a graduate student’s appointment and whether he or she qualifies for in-state or out-of-state tuition, CU graduate student advocacy group Committee on Rights and Compensation estimated impacted students would see their taxes increase between 194 percent and 2,329 percent under the GOP tax plan. [Pols emphasis]

The high cost of graduate school credit hours has long been offset by students teaching and doing other qualified work for the institution to reduce their tuition and fees. To count that as taxable income would subject students to massive tax increases on “income” that isn’t income at all. We haven’t seen an estimate for how much this change would raise in revenue, but the damage it could do to postgraduate education in the country is really quite sobering. It’s worth noting that an equivalent provision does not exist in the Senate version of the bill under debate as of this writing; we’ll have to see if it’s inserted as an amendment or perhaps during the conference committee between the House and Senate to hammer out a final version of the bill.

As the overall cost of higher education has ballooned in recent years, it’s become a common theme from conservative politicians to disparage the need for advanced degrees outside of economically vital specialties, medicine, the legal profession, and (of course) the master’s degree in business administration. But we’ve perhaps never seen that rhetorical contempt for higher education put into policy more than the House tax “reform” bill–which every Republican House member from Colorado voted for.

The far-reaching implications of this one provision in such a massive overhaul of the tax code should be enough to give anybody pause. Like eliminating the adoption tax credit or sneaking “Personhood” in with college tuition savings plans, there appear to be nasty culture war ulterior motives under the hood of this whole effort.

Who’s Afraid of Big Bad Teacher’s Unions?

Evidently Kyle Clark didn’t like his school teachers very much.

9NEWS’ Kyle Clark, that’s who!

School board candidates backed and financed by teachers unions [Pols emphasis] are in positions for convincing wins in Jefferson County and Douglas County, with strong leads on Wednesday morning.

In Douglas County, where eight candidates are running for four seats, the union-backed slate [Pols emphasis] needs to flip only one race to gain control of the school board. If that happens, the new school board majority would likely abandon its defense of a controversial voucher program instituted by conservative school reformers. A legal challenge to that program is working its way toward the Supreme Court…

The union-backed [Pols emphasis] candidates for the DougCo school board maintained double-digit leads over the so-called education reform slate into Wednesday.

…In Jefferson County, three of five Board of Education seats were up for grabs. Two of the races were contested by conservative candidates looking to unseat union-supported [Pols emphasis] board members.

Kyle Clark’s full story on the school board elections in Douglas County and Jefferson County is eleven sentences long. Four of those eleven sentences–in addition to the title of the story–contain the words “unions,” “union-backed,” or “union-supported.” Now, we’re not disputing that the Colorado Education Association and their subsidiary organizations in Jefferson and Douglas Counties played a role in these elections–certainly they did, just as they did in the historic recall elections two years ago that swept a controversial far-right school board majority in Jefferson County from power.

But here’s the thing: over 120,000 Jefferson County voters participated in the school board elections that concluded yesterday. No doubt the teacher’s union’s support was helpful to the candidates who prevailed, but it’s Jefferson County voters who made the final decision–not the teacher’s union–and the winning candidates won by a landslide. And that means to obsess over the role of the union to the absolutely ridiculous extent Kyle Clark did in this story makes what he did here something other than journalism. This is a story written by someone so steeped in the demonization pushed by conservatives of organized labor that he completely lost sight of the larger reality–which is not “the unions,” but the fact that 120,000 voters who threw far-right radicals out of power in Jefferson County two years ago reaffirmed their choice by a similarly overwhelming margin.

Much like the Denver Post’s just-plain-sad endorsements that the voters ignored, this is a local TV newsman demonstrating only one thing: that he listens to the wrong people.

Get More Smarter on Friday (September 29)

The next time you read this, it will be October. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Governor John Hickenlooper is blasting Republican lawmakers over their tantrum about a special session called by the Governor to fix an error in the “Hospital Provider Fee” legislation. As Brian Eason reports for the Denver Post:

In a fiery press briefing, an agitated Gov. John Hickenlooper took swipes at GOP leaders, saying Republican lawmakers had turned next week’s special session into a “political circus.”

Hickenlooper earlier this month took the extraordinary step of calling lawmakers back to Denver for their first special session in five years — a move he said was needed to fix a bill-drafting error that has cost special taxing districts such as the Regional Transportation District millions of dollars in marijuana revenue.

But Republicans, who control the state Senate, have balked at the need for a special session, saying there’s no emergency and the error can be fixed when lawmakers return to the Capitol in January.

Despite the GOP opposition, Hickenlooper on Friday pledged to press forward with the special session, announcing that the affected taxing districts have offered to pay for the $25,000-a-day session out of their pot sales taxes once the revenue stream is restored — a move apparently aimed at sidestepping one of the political arguments against it.

Republican lawmakers apparently had their feelings hurt because they say Hickenlooper didn’t do enough “outreach” with them before calling the special session. As we’ve written before in this space, this temper tantrum from Senate President Kevin Grantham and friends is a really bad look heading into a 2018 election cycle that already looks difficult for Republicans.

 

► Former Congressman Tom Tancredo is inching closer and closer toward running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2018. Tancredo revealed on Thursday that he met this week with former Trump advisor and current Breitbart boss Steve Bannon about entering the race. Bannon is leading a national effort to push back against establishment Republicans; his cause picked up a big win this week when Roy Moore won a Republican Primary for U.S. Senate in Alabama.

For more on Tancredo, check out this interview with Stan Bush at CBS4. Tancredo tells Bush that there is polling data showing him at the top of the Republican field for Governor.

 

► Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, deserves a standing ovation for his response to racist messages found at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School this week. As CNN reports:

When someone left racist slurs on the message boards of five black cadet candidates at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School, the academy’s superintendent didn’t even try to suppress his outrage.

In a video making the rounds on social media and posted to the Air Force Academy’s Facebook page, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria ordered his cadets to line up and pull out their phones.

“If you can’t treat someone from another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said. “If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.”

“If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place. That kind of behavior has no place at the Prep School,” Silveria said…

…”It’s the power that we come from all walks of life, that we come from all parts of this country, that we come from all races, that we come from all backgrounds, gender, all make-up, all upbringing,” he said. “The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful.”

Well done, sir. Well done.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Thursday (September 28)

You can read this standing or kneeling. Or even sitting. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump and Congressional Republicans unveiled their new tax plan on Wednesday, and while the rollout was short on details, some of the major potential impacts are not hard to understand. As Vox.com reports:

Here is what you need to know about the Republican tax plan released Wednesday: It’s not a tax reform plan at all.

It is a sketch of an outline of a preliminary notion of a tax cut for some — and a tax hike for others. The components read like the jumble of ideas you might expect a table of slightly inebriated Chamber of Commerce types to shout out when polled for their tax reform suggestions…

…We can identify at least one taxpayer who will hugely benefit from the proposal: President Donald Trump. We still haven’t seen his tax returns, but thanks to leaked documents we know that at least at some point in the past, the only income tax he paid was the alternative minimum tax (the AMT). We also know that his businesses operate through “pass-through” vehicles (partnerships, LLCs and S corporations). A regular corporation pays tax on its income; shareholders in turn pay tax on the dividends they receive. In pass-through vehicles, by contrast, business income is taxed only in the hands of the owners of the business, rather than at the entity level.

The Republican tax plan eliminates the AMT, which would be a significant benefit to one Donald J. Trump.

Republican rhetoric about their tax plan is oddly reminiscent of Congressional attempts to repeal Obamacare, as NBC News explains. For more of a Colorado-based perspective, check out this analysis from 9News.

 

► Earlier this week, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) challenged former Rep. Tom Tancredo to run against him in a Republican primary in CD-6. Tancredo threw down a different gauntlet in prodding Coffman to run against him in a Republican gubernatorial primary in 2018.

 

► The big election-related news this week was Tuesday’s Republican Senate Primary in Alabama, where Roy Moore ousted establishment favorite Luther Strange by a sizable margin. Moore’s victory is causing much hand-wringing among Republican leaders who worry that right-wing candidates will be emboldened to challenge incumbent Republicans in 2018. But as CNN notes, there were two other important election results this week that portend bad news for the GOP in a General Election:

In Florida, Democrat Annette Tadeo won a Republican-held state Senate district 51% to 47%. In New Hampshire, Democrat Kari Lerner beat a former Republican state representative to fill a state House district that Donald Trump won by 23 points last November.

Those twin wins make it eight Republican-controlled state legislative seats that Democrats have flipped in 2017 alone. (Republicans flipped a Democratic state House seat in Louisiana earlier this year although Democrats didn’t even field a candidate in that race.)

That means that of the 27 Republican-held state legislative seats that have come open in 2017 to date, Democrats have now flipped almost 30% of them — a remarkable number in anycircumstance but especially so when you consider the average Trump margin in these seats in 2016 was 19 points.

Approval ratings for Republicans overall reached a record low this week, and the generic “Democrat or Republican” ballot question now has Democrats with a +9 advantage. If these trends hold, Republicans are in danger of losing both chambers in Congress next November.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Erica Shields and the “Freedom Blanket”

Instagram post by Jeffco School Board candidate Erica Shields (Nov. 2015)

This photo of a “Freedom Blanket” was posted in November 2015 on the Instagram account of Erica Shields, a Republican running for Jefferson County School Board in District 2 against incumbent Democrat Susan Harmon.

Erica Shields

You’re not seeing things — this is an actual social media post by an actual Republican candidate for school board in Jefferson County, which is where the Columbine school massacre took place in 1999. We obscured the face of the boy in the photo because it’s not his fault that his mom thought that this would be a good thing to put out on the Internet tubes.

Shields posts on Instagram and Twitter under the handle “mrscoam2016,” a reference to the fact that she was the 2016 “Mrs. Colorado America,” which is apparently a thing. As of September 2017, she also started posting under the handle “@EricaforKids.”

As the Lakewood Sentinel reported in mid-September, Shields fancies herself as a “public health educator.” Judging by her social media accounts, this is a fancy way of saying that she is a personal trainer/yoga instructor:

Shields, a Jeffco mom, describes her work as being a “public health educator,” who advocates for childhood causes including fitness, resiliency, pediatric cancer, child abuse and neglect, and education.

“Over the last year, I have spent a significant amount of time volunteering in schools which serve high populations of students from families living below poverty,” Shields said. “I have seen the incredible needs in these schools. I have learned not every student in Jeffco has the same opportunities despite the billion dollars we spend each year. I am running to be sure we focus on improving opportunities for all students so that they can be better prepared for college or career.”

According to the Sentinel, Shields opposes closing schools, opposes the idea of moving sixth-graders to middle school, and wants to “attract and retain great teachers and staff.” It’s fun to come out against cuts of any kind when you don’t have to actually worry about a budget.

Mail ballots drop in Jefferson County on October 16.

Elections Matter, Sex Ed Edition

Bad sex ed.

As the Denver Post’s John Ingold reports:

A Denver-based program that helps school districts with sex education and works to prevent teen pregnancy is closing, after the Trump administration ended its main grant early.

Colorado Youth Matter received 75 percent of its funding from the federal grant, about $750,000 per year. The grant had been scheduled to run through 2020, but the Trump administration ended the federal Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants as of next summer for all of the 84 organizations around the country that received them. The administration cited concerns about whether the programs were effective, a rationale critics have questioned. [Pols emphasis]

Regardless, without its main source of money, Colorado Youth Matter would have struggled to make its budget work, said Andrea Miller, the group’s executive director. Another private foundation also ended its grant with Colorado Youth Matter after the Trump administration announcement, worried that the organization would be too diminished without the federal money, Miller said.

“It would be difficult to regain some of that ground,” she said.

As Ingold reports, Colorado has been a leader for some years now on reducing the rate of teen pregnancy–most notably for a program to distribute long-acting reversible contraception to young women, but also due to educational initiatives like the federally-funded program described above.

Reports from other states about the loss of these grant funds trace the decision to Valerie Huber, described as “an outspoken advocate of abstinence-only education,” was appointed by the Trump administration to head the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health. Colorado Youth Matter’s sex ed program taught both abstinence and common sense about sexuality and safety.

And Donald Trump can’t have that! The reasons why, while keeping this a family show, run the gamut.

Colorado Christian University Makes Up “Student Success Story”

A popular marketing angle for colleges and universities these days is to feature graduates who have gone on to success in their respective career fields in advertising. Metropolitan State University in Denver is a good example:

Browsing around yesterday, we came across a similar “success story testimonial” ad for Lakewood’s Colorado Christian University–the politically-connected doctrinaire conservative college closely tied to the state’s Republican establishment and home to the Centennial Institute, which holds the high-profile Western Conservative Summit every year:

Now, that’s pretty cool! First-generation college graduate, gets her bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from CCU’s online education program and goes on to serve as a police officer! That’s a success story by anyone’s estimate. Enough to make you think, as the ad suggests, that “all things are possible” at CCU.

But then it occurred to us: haven’t we seen this woman before? And as it turned out from about five seconds of Googling, yes. We have seen this woman before. Lots of times.

Via Shutterstock. The “first-generation grad” depicted in this advertisement is a stock photo of a female police officer you can buy for about ten bucks. While the ad doesn’t specifically name the person or give additional details like the Metro State ad above does, it’s clearly meant to leave the same impression of a personal success story. Of course it’s possible that this stock image just happens to depict an actual CCU student, and by a gobsmacking coincidence was used legitimately by CCU for this ad campaign–in addition to being used all over the place as a stock photo of a female cop.

More likely, though, Colorado Christian University has just earned itself a “B.S.” degree of its own.

Rep. Ken Buck – Still lying, but nicely

Representative Buck is a good communicator. His conversational skills were on display in his Sterling Town Hall on July 29, 2017.  He does not always tell the truth, and his point of view is limited to what one would expect from one of the ten most conservative members of the House of Representatives, and proud member of the ultra-right wing Freedom Caucus.  I’ve listed Buck’s lies and lies by omission below.

Buck handles these town halls well – he doesn’t get flustered when confronted, and  stayed in control with a crowd that was at least 50% Democratic and progressive. The impromptu town hall in Longmont got a little rowdier, but Buck still kept his cool.  I’d call the overall tone of the Sterling meeting “polite but firm” , for all parties involved.

Over the course of the  one hour town hall meeting, Buck and his constituents discussed the budget process, the health care bills past, present, and future, education, water law, Bitcoin and “crypto-currency”, renewable energy, constitutional convention, the VA hospital, and civility in politics. I’ve highlighted some of the places in which Representative Buck strayed from the truth.

  • At 22:59, during a renewable energy discussion , Buck said that he’s against mandates, not renewable energy, even though Colorado now gets 24% of its electricity from wind and solar, and wind turbine jobs are the fastest growing job category in the country. . He was unable to justify his statement that renewable energy is hurting Coloradans and costing them money.
  • At 30:00 Buck says he’s against unfunded mandates in education, but doesn’t commit to fund them.
  • At 39:00, Buck lies about how much ACA coverage cost in 2014. (ACA = $1800, wife’s plan =$108 – but not mentioning that the  Federal Government subsidizes all congressmembers health at 90%, so his remaining 10% cost would have been $180/mo). If you recall, Cory Gardner  tried to scam voters with this same BS, and was never able to show any proof that his ACA payment was more expensive than his private plan.
  • At 40:00 Rep. Buck says he wants to drive down costs of premiums & deductibles, but neglects to mention that the House AHCA bill would have driven those way up for consumers.
  • At 49:45 , he says we should encourage people to be healthier and drive down health care costs that way (but the bill he supported would have eliminated ACA’s preventative medicine coverage).
  • Buck told a LIE again at 51:13 when he said that the GOP congress “never attempted to repeal and replace” Obamacare. The GOP Congress voted over 50 times to “repeal the ACA, and Buck personally voted 3X since he was elected in 2014 to repeal the ACA.
  • Again, at 53: 00 when Buck is asked what can be done about the lack of civility in DC, he blames the media for publicizing sensational stories, not a Republican administration which refuses to work across the aisle, nor a President who models terrible and uncivil behavior.
  • At 53:30, Buck is asked about his book Drain the Swamp, and  if it is true that he wants to change the Constitution. He replies that he would like to have a Constitutional Convention, but only to get a balanced budget and term limits. Whew. It’s not like there are any Koch brothers or nuts out there who want a Con-con just to repeal the last two centuries of progress.

Ken Buck apparently also has access to the Trump White House connection to Breitbart public relations  services. Buck’s humorous “Cut the Debt” video

features Trey Gowdy, Mia Love, Ted Cruz, and other Congress members, and promotes his point of view that cutting the national debt is an urgent priority. It was a front page Breitbart story on 3/15/2017.

Ken Buck is still one of the most conservative members of Congress. People running against him need to confront him on policy and votes. He’s not stupid or undisciplined – he’s not going to curse anyone out or get into a sex or money scandal. He’ll be a formidable foe not least because he is so “nice” and “personable”. Candidates running against him need to be prepared to confront him on votes, policies, and facts, stay polite and respectful, but call his lies out when necessary.

Representative Buck has other town hall meetings scheduled. See his website for updates.

Good news! July 1-7, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary is about small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine, and categories often overlap.

Attorneys General across the country (including Colorado’s Coffman)  are claiming that they will check Big Pharma’s pushing of opiods, “clear the swamp”, ensure fair voting, and protect transgender people. AGs be aware – people will check to see that you follow through on your promises.

Voting rights roundup

flag with I voted

Image by debaird on flikr

Fourth of July, Fireworks, and the Franchise – what could be more patriotic? Voting seems to be on everyone’s minds right now.

Alabama seeks to inform felons of restored voting rights in jail

Kentucky also ordered the voting rights of 284 felons to be restored.

Kris Kobach, Vice-Chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity,  requested that all 50 states send him their voter information by July 14 so that the Commission can create a national voter registry to prevent what he claims is rampant voter fraud.

Unfortunately, rather than creating a process to make it easier for voters to register and vote, the Commission’s goal appears to be to selectively disenfranchise voters. The good news is that 45 states now have refused to provide part or all of the information requested. President Trump is not pleased, and has let us know this in his usual way.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, KY Secretary of State said that there is  “not enough bourbon in Kentucky” to make  Trump’s request seem sensible.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann suggested that, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from…”

Floridians are also petitioning to restore voting rights to felons.

Colorado’s Secretary of State Wayne Williams is trying to have it both ways  –  comply with Trump’s request, while still protecting the privacy of Colorado voters by supplying only publicly available information. Many voters are choosing to keep their data confidential by filing a form and paying $5 at the Secretary of State’s Office.

Voters seldom commit fraud in Colorado – but when they do, they are usually Republicans.

(more…)

Good News! June 16-23, 2017

(Because Lord knows we can use some – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This was a hard week to write “Good News” for. Still, there was some.

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine.

This week, it’s all about the heat, voters, immigrant rights, cannabis, and beer. Farmer’s markets. Buying local. No sports news, because the only sports I halfway understand are basketball and baseball. Anything else, I’m the one looking at you to see when to stand up and cheer.

Environmental / energy

It’s freaking hot in Colorado, especially on the western slope , down south, and in Denver, but the head of the EPA won’t say if climate change is a hoax, although his boss says it is.

Good news: It’s not as hot as Phoenix’s 119 degrees . Even AZ Sen. McCain thinks this global warming thing is the real deal.   Plastic mailboxes are melting in Arizona – it’s that hot.  (Photo from reddit, via Buzzfeed)

 

MacGregor Ranch is piloting a program to work closely with the NRCS to cut underbrush and mitigate wildfire risk, since it is so freaking hot in Colorado. Drought and wildfires are the two main hazards Colorado experiences from climate change. Here’s the video from the pilot project.

Virgin Mobile and several other big retailers are planning to conserve energy by running their trucking fleets more efficiently.

Coal India, the world’s largest coal mining company, will shut down 37 of its mines that are no longer economically viable. The lost energy will be replaced mainly with solar.

Clean energy jobs remain the fastest-growing employment sector in Colorado  – with 62,000 added last year.  65% of those jobs are in energy efficiency.   This all helps Colorado to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 2.3%.    Rates for youth under 24 were at 6%, and for Hispanics at 5%, still lower than most other states.

There’s still some good fishing around Colorado. Get’em while there’s still water enough to fish in.

And you can drive to your fishing spot on roads you won’t have to pay an extra tax on, per the Colorado Business Coalition. Amendment 267 passed, funding $3 Billion for road repair and maintenance; however, $10 billion was needed. Where will that come from?

The “Dog Days” are  approaching. If you see poor Puddles panting in a hot car, you can break in to save the pet – but not legally,  in Colorado, until August.

(more…)