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September 21, 2011 09:29 PM UTC

GOP All-In for "Non-Partisan" School Board Elections

  • by: Colorado Pols

We’ve previously discussed the fact that the Jefferson County Republican Party has become the driving force behind the campaigns of Jeffco School Board candidates Preston Branaugh and Jim Powers. Indeed, county Republicans have made it no secret that they will do whatever it takes to gain Laura Boggs a majority on the school board.

Case in point, we received a fundraising letter today from county GOP Chair Don “There’s No I in That” Ytterberg in which he tells GOP donors that the party is going to pursue those two school board seats pretty aggressively. You can read the entire letter here, but we’ve excerpted it below.

Enclosed please find a copy of Waiting for Superman, an extraordinary documentary about the state of public education in America. If you are a conservative, I’m sure you will connect with this thought-provoking film because it identifies pressing issues facing Jefferson County’s own public schools that can only be addressed by electing new, committed, professional leadership to the county School Board.

Even if you do not have children in school, I’m sure that you understand that businesses cannot be successful without educated workers. The crisis today is that 60% of Jefferson County tenth graders cannot pass Colorado’s standardized math test.

These results ARE NOT because of insufficient funding! The Jefferson County school budget was over $1.1 billion in 2011. Despite declining enrollment, that’s nearly double the 1990s levels. Where did this money go? Mostly, it went to increased administrative costs. We now have approximately 8,000 administrative employees for our 80,000 students. That’s lower than the student-teacher ratio!

This year, two successful businessmen, Preston Branaugh and Jim Powers, are running for the School Board. With six kids between them, they are committed to turning around our Jeffco schools. You also need to know that the Jefferson County Republican Party is promoting their candidacy.

Although School Board races are called “non-partisan,” Democrats and other liberal organizations select and promote candidates that are sympathetic to the unionized educational establishment. I prefer to call these races “unbranded,” instead of non-partisan, because the only “non-partisan” aspect is that the candidates do not identify their party on the ballot.

Please know that this campaign is not about opposing the many fine teachers in our community; it’s about providing Board Members with professional management skills who can guide the operations of the 35th largest school district in the United States.

We really love that Ytterberg included a copy of Waiting for Superman in this fundraising pitch. We just hope he had to individually purchase copies of it; piracy concerns aside, if Ytterberg bought dozens of DVDs, he indirectly funneled a not insubstantial amount of cash into the pocket of director Davis Guggenheim. Guggenheim, you’ll recall, also directed An Inconvienent Truth and Barack Obama’s biographical film shown during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Sure, Superman explores education issues that are at odds with some education activists and labor unions, but it was still directed by a prominent Democrat. Would it be a stretch to say that Ytterburg’s purchase of Waiting for Superman with party funds indirectly supports Al Gore and An Inconvienent Truth? Probably. It’s still funny no matter how you look at it.

Above that, though, this fundraising letter shows just how far Ytterberg and the county party have thrown the gauntlet in their support of Branuagh and Powers. If there was any doubt before, it’s unmistakable now: these are the Republican candidates for seats on the nonpartisan, er, “unbranded” Jeffco School Board. Ytterberg said it best himself, “You need to know that the Jefferson County Republican Party is promoting their candidacy.”  

Yttenberg’s letter also included an invitation for a fundraising event for Branaugh, Powers, and the party. Laura Boggs will be featured there as a speaker. That’s ironic: at a fundraiser dedicated to “electing new, committed, professional leadership to the county School Board,” Laura Boggs is speaking.  Boggs, you’ll recall, is the only school board member in county history to be censured. Her behavior has been described as “erratic, disrespectful, and inconsistent.” She previously snuck into a Jefferson County teacher’s union meeting and hid behind a tripod with poster paper on it. She also took over the classroom of a Green Mountain High School teacher and told students that “school is stupid.” It’d be a tough sell to describe any of Boggs’ actions on the school board as “committed” or “professional.” “New,” perhaps.

Maybe that’s just the point: Jeffco Republicans aren’t running candidates like Laura Boggs in 2011. They’re running candidates like Jim Powers and Preston Branaugh. They’re running candidates who probably won’t go off the deep end and do something that reflects poorly on the party. They’re running candidates who seem electable. The Colorado GOP and its constituent organizations at the county level did a pretty good job of grooming candidates in the 90s and early 2000s; they had a successful track record of promoting those who could get elected and best represent the party to an independent voter bloc. Those days are gone, but is Yttenberg’s treatment of Branaugh and Powers indicative of a return to a more comprehensive candidate selection process? Maybe.

It could also be that the Jeffco GOP realizes that elected officials like Laura Boggs make the Republican party as a whole look really, really bad. Branaugh and Powers may be important to the party so that Laura Boggs and candidates like her aren’t the first thing independent voters will think of going into the 2012 election. Ytterberg may indeed be trying his best to stave off a total Tea Party takeover. That “new leadership” he wrote about? That might mean “not like Boggs” more than it means “Republican.”

As for the Jeffco Dems? They’re not as wholeheartedly pushing the whole party label thing on their slate. They don’t have to, though. Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper each have extensive political experience, and more importantly, connections to their own fundraising networks. They can throw fundraisers without any help. They don’t need to rely on their party to win as much as their Republican counterparts do. That doesn’t mean they’re safe; in Jefferson County, Branaugh and Powers might just manage to pull off wins. If so, for the first time in a decade, it might be because of their party, not despite it.  


3 thoughts on “GOP All-In for “Non-Partisan” School Board Elections

  1. Stop the rhetoric and biased, one-sided reporting.  Anybody want to see how the DEMS are all in in supporting Jill and Leslie?  Visit my facebook page jen.raiffie and view the photo just taken one week ago.  

    Want to put unions first and pay more taxes w/o any reform, …vote for Jill and Leslie

    Want the district to have the same successes as Jill’s math program in JeffCo?  Vote for Jill..but look at the student proficiency rates for Math in Jeffco….EMBARASSING AT BEST!

    Want to put the students first…Want accountability, reform, and student performace scores to be proud of..then vote for the dads! and

  2. First of all, the above commenter has neglected to mention that Jim Powers homeschools his kids. How’s that for contributing to effective education in Jefferson County? He can’t even get along with Jeffco schools long enough to send his children to school there–how will he possibly support school improvement?

    Answer: He won’t. He’ll support siphoning funding away from public school education to voucher programs and other “alternatives” that, while a parent’s right to choose, are hardly the same thing as a robust and effective public school system.

    Let’s face it, folks. The hand-selected, Laura Boggs backed Tea Party candidates with their creepy identical Tea Party designed websites have one thing in mind, and it’s not support for effective and comprehensive public education.

    Oh, and can we talk for a minute about the “8,000 administrators” thing? That includes paraprofessionals, bus drivers, janitors, and even school counselors. Ever been a schoolchild with a disability who needed a paraprofessional and didn’t have one? That’s a hard row to hoe–I haven’t been there either, but I’ve been in the classroom with someone who was in that situation.

    Look, if you don’t really believe public education is a legitimate function of government (and don’t mind that you’re going up against Thomas Jefferson on that score) and you support a Tea Party takeover of Jeffco Public Schools, vote Branaugh/Powers. Or write in some other generic Tea Party Republican with no worthwhile experience and no particular policy goals aside from “whatever Laura Boggs wants.”

    If you’d like to see two whip-smart, experienced, passionate education advocates work to give your kids the education they deserve, vote Fellman/Dahlkemper. Even if you’re a Republican and happen to be among the many, many Republicans who don’t subscribe to a right-wing extremist social agenda that includes opposition to public education. You may not always agree with these candidates, who happen to be Democrats, but you’ve got one basis for ideological synchronicity in that you both believe your kids deserve a high-quality education from Jefferson County Public Schools. You won’t get that from Laura Boggs!

  3. The list of endorsements on Dahlkemper’s and Fellman’s respective websites read like a Who’s Who of the Democratic Party.  It is unsettling that the two Jeffco Board members, as well as the outgoing president, have endorsed both of these candidates.  Are we trying to perpetuate the mediocrity of the last board?

    So what that Jim Powers and his wife chose to home school their children?  That is a legitimate option afforded any parent.  It is troubling that home schoolers, online school learners, magnet school supports, charter school boosters, and even voucher hopefuls are considered education opponents.  The anti-choice folks think every parent and educator have to be in lock step with JCEA and the public school bureaucracy to be pro-education.

    This “Vouchers in Jeffco” is a lot of nonsense.  Douglas County’s effort has already been declared unconstitutional and an appeal will take years.  It makes no sense for any Jeffco Board to pursue vouchers in the foreseeable future, if at all.

    What this voucher smokescreen is masking is the agenda of Dahlkemper and Fellman to push another mill levy increase.  This seems to be the specialty of Dahlkemper, who was out front on the last failed mill levy increase.

    Prop 103 is doomed to defeat, as will be any proposed mill levy increase in Jeffco.  What happens then?  Will Dahlkemper and Fellman follow the lead of the majority of the current board members and just continue to remove teachers from the classroom, and further dilute the effectiveness of public education?  I believe Preston Branuagh and Jim Powers can look beyond this knee jerk reaction.  I doubt their opponents can.


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