We talked a couple of times earlier about Senate candidate Jane Norton’s first big campaign promise–that is, her pledge to abolish the U.S. Department of Education if elected. As you know, we don’t think such a radical prescription for public education was the best thing for her to lead off with in this campaign: red meat for the “Tea Party” contingent everyone agrees the Republicans need on board next year, but not so good for gaining the support of a majority of Colorado residents–who one actually needs to win the general election.
But it’s easier to understand what motivated Norton to take this strident position on public education once you take a look at who is involved with her campaign. Earlier this week, Norton’s campaign released a list of county campaign chairs. In El Paso County, you’ll notice four co-chairs with the same last name–Bill, Dede, Joyce and Steve Schuck.
Steve Schuck has been at the center of voucher and other “school choice” battles in Colorado for years. In 1998, Schuck was a key proponent of a failed ballot measure to dramatically privatize Colorado public schools, allowing education tax dollars to pay for Christian or other religious instruction: the ‘full monte’ of ‘school choice’ advocates. A similar plan backed by Schuck in 2003 for Denver Public Schools was declared unconstitutional and thrown out. An editorial from the CEA Journal summarized at the time (articles retrieved from Lexis-Nexis):
‘Sen. John Andrews. Alex Cranberg, Ed McVaney, and Steve Schuck [have] the bucks to buy anything they want. Former U.S. Rep Bob Schaffer and his pro-voucher Colorado Alliance for Report in Education. Roman Catholic Bishops. Right Wing legislators and groups outside Colorado with a common agenda: the destruction of public education and the eventual privatization of K-12.’
In 2000, the Denver Post called out Schuck for his possible “hidden agenda” after helping raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of then-Gov. Bill Owens’ education plans:
Such secrecy prompts us to question who is behind this coalition – and why they remain unidentified. Several of the chief players are known – including ardent vouchers advocate Steve Schuck, a Colorado Springs developer, and Ed McVaney, a software-company chairman who contributed $ 250,000 to the 1998 push for tax credits (i.e. vouchers).
Vouchers allow parents to take education tax dollars out of public schools to use in private schools instead. We support vouchers on a limited basis – to be used by low-income people whose children are stuck in poor-performing public schools…
We’re very pleased that business people also have decided to support Owens’ plan.
What we won’t support, however, is any stealth campaign for full-throttle vouchers.
Well, now that Norton has come out for abolishing the Department of Education, you can make a pretty good argument that Schuck’s campaign to privatize education has gotten a little less, you know, “stealthy.” What this means to you depends on whether or not you agree with Norton and Steve Schuck on education issues: but for all the agitation we perennially hear about it, every statewide ballot measure to “voucherize” education in Colorado has failed miserably. Much like the “Tea Partiers” Norton is trying to appease with this, we predict only a small minority of voters will be supportive of Norton’s idea–the majority will find it ideologically stilted and repellent.