2013’s Top Ten #8: The Slaughter of Amendment 66 and How it Changed School Board Outcomes

A metaphor.

A metaphor.

The crushing failure of Amendment 66, the school finance measure, was significant for many reasons that extend well beyond the stinging 65-35% margin of defeat.

The campaign itself was an abject failure the likes of which Colorado hasn't seen since Bob Beauprez was staring at a horse's ass. Consider: Proposition 103, which was meagerly funded and unsupported by many public officials (including Gov. John Hickenlooper) failed by a 64-36% margin in 2011. Given Colorado's general opposition to taxing anything, nobody would have blamed the Amendment 66 campaign if it didn't pass in 2013 — but a $10 million campaign should never have performed so miserably as that it couldn't even do better than an shoestring-budged proposition on the ballot just two years earlier. So what happened? As we wrote in early November, this was a campaign that made little sense from the start:

Heavily consultant-driven with a rigidly controlled message, this is a campaign that always seemed afraid of its own shadow despite the massive resources invested. Proponents relied much too heavily on lavish buys of slick television ads, and counted on an "under the radar" field campaign effort that completely failed. The complicated details of Amendment 66 were freely misrepresented by opponents, and the campaign was never quite able to keep up. Apart from the huge ad buys, seemingly no effort was made at secondary earned media, and in fact Amendment 66 appeared to garner less coverage in the media than Proposition 103 did two years before. If this was by design, in hindsight it was clearly a mistake.

Throughout the campaign, proponents expressed confidence that grew increasingly brittle as it became clear the initiative was in trouble. But with no real strategy other than pouring cash into TV ads, the campaign was powerless to do anything to change course. They had their playbook and they stuck with it to the bitter end…

…It was a tough climate for Amendment 66, but Democrats also failed to use the resources they had this time imaginatively–or even just definitively. You can't pass an amendment like this without having a big conversation with Colorado voters, which is a major reason why Referendum C passed in 2005. Amendment 66 needed to be the issue of the election that everyone was talking about, but it wasn't. Anecdotally, we talked to a lot of potential supporters who didn't even know what it was. With a tax increase like this, you absolutely must grab hold of the narrative and never let go. You don't tell people why they should vote for it; you make the case that they must support the measure.

Amendment 66 had the full support of Hickenlooper and any number of elected officials in Colorado, but the strategy outlined by consultants led by Mike Melanson was to somehow run a nearly $1 billion tax increase "under the radar." Hickenlooper was rarely used publicly in support of Amendment 66, and that absence of visible leadership was harmful to both the campaign and the Governor. You can argue about Hickenlooper's favorability ratings, but he's still the Governor of Colorado and the leader of the state — if he isn't front-and-center on the campaign, it gives the impression that he isn't completely committed to the plan, and voters see that.

Where the Amendment 66 campaign really failed was in its decision to avoid "reliable" Democratic voters in order to target some polling- and focus group-molded monster of an electorate that it decided would be the key to passing the Amendment. The result was that "reliable" Democratic voters didn't really know anything about Amendment 66 and were not invested in the outcome…and you can't pass a tax increase in a low-turnout election (which 2013 became). Unlike 2005's Referendum C, which created water-cooler discussions across Colorado, very few low-information voters knew anything about Amendment 66. As a result, the majority of people who were committed to voting in 2013 were those who were anti-Amendment 66; the anti-66 campaign had a natural conservative base that will always turn out to vote 'NO' on things.

The dismal defeat of Amendment 66 will give pause to efforts at raising taxes in the near future, which is a serious problem in a state like Colorado where funding for anything remains a major issue. But the more immediate impact of November's election (aside from the money that schools will not receive from 66), was felt in local school board elections in counties like Jefferson and Douglas. The Jefferson County School Board, for example, is now controlled by right-wing, pro-voucher forces that have already made clear their intention to ignore the public and ram through their own initiatives. The Jeffco School Board flipped when all three open seats went to right-wing candidates; but if the Amendment 66 campaign hadn't done so little to promote turnout among a public education-supportive base, it's likely that at least one of those three seats would have gone to a more moderate candidate and prevented wholesale radical changes.

Low turnout related to Amendment 66 also destroyed the hopes of school board candidates in Douglas County that were seeking to retake control of a board that, in just a few years, had dismantled a school district that had been among the best in the nation. Moderates came within just a few hundred votes of retaking control in Douglas County — which they almost certainly could have accomplished had overall voter turnout not been so dismal.

The colossal failure of Amendment 66 wasn't just one of the biggest political stories of 2013 — its impacts will be felt for many years to come.

70 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Ralphie says:

    Amendment 66 sounded like a good idea in concept.  I thought so, until I read the enabling legislation.  There were many earmarks and giveaways in that bill.  Instead of giving everyone something to like, the final product gave everyone something to hate.  That's why it went down in flames.


  2. artisan4 says:

    I often see articles blaming the organizers of amendments for their failure, but the reality is that some eligible voters are stupid and lazy.  It is the responsibilty of voters to explore the issues and the vote.  How lazy do you have to be to not fill out a mailed ballot?  If the lack of Democratic turnout is the problem, then the Democratic voters have to get it together and go out and vote for public school funding, vote to support Dems who oppose gun slaughter when the barrel-lickers attack, vote to prevent their school boards from being taken over by anti-labour, pro-greed sector freaks.

  3. Dark Cloud says:

    Among several issues, the bloody teacher unions were front and center with the television ads fluffing up teachers as, this year, martyrs and just too icky for words.  And I'm a liberal Dem. It's not about the teachers, it's about the kids and THAT ought to be the focus of any future campaign: what the kids will not be, won't have, unable to understand, and a lower level of life without competent and meaningful education. Don't play to parental prejudice but to parental guilt.

    It's not pretty, but it's true.  Shape up.

  4. gertie97 says:

    Ralphie is right, and so are the dead govs. The legislation was a minefield, and the pro-66 campaign was so badly run that it couldn't even produce well-prepared speakers upon request.

    Even so, the anti-tax forces are so strong it didn't matter. People in this state are more than willing to tax those they think are sinners (tobacco, marijuana, booze) but unwilling to tax themselves for anything. They're also the first in line to gripe when the gummint isn't doing enough for them.

    One word sums it up nicely: selfish.


    • BlueCat says:

      Another good reason why we should stop this crap about managing complex tax and funding issues via constitutional amendments passed by the general electorate.  The average person does not have the time or inclination to study these issues in depth. That's why we elect legislators to represent us and delegate the job to them. We wouldn't be in the mess we're in now with competing amendments tying our legislators hands without all these amendments passed by an uninformed public without benefit of advisers with any expertise.  

      While I did vote for this one it was with reluctance because I think the whole idea of managingthe budget via set in stone amendment is a lousy idea.  

      At the federal level our founders went with the model of a constitutional Republic with a very hard to amend federal constitution. We stuck with representative rather than direct democracy at state level too  but made amending our state constitution way, way, too easy.  I'd like to see a correction that would make it a little harder than changing socks to amend our constitution, especially since, once amended it becomes very difficult to undo damage  from unforeseen consequences arise. 

      I'd like to see budget making power restored to our elected legislators but I don't think they want it back. This way they don't have to bear the responsibility.  

  5. davebarnes says:

    Lesson #1 – Do not propose a "progressive" income tax structure in Colorado. We likes our single rate and don't want to become California.

    Lesson #2 – Do not run bullshit ads promising more music and art when the voters know that fungible is a real thing even if they don't know the word.

  6. dwyer says:

    It is so good to finally see the beginning of a real discussion of "what went wrong." I agree with davebarnes, gertie97 and Ralphie.  I also think, and this is my opinion,  that the problem with the campaign strategy was the same problem with the actual legislation.  Big Money called the shots.  There is very little grass roots input from Democrats outside of those who have money.  There is no "feedback loop" from real people back to Democratic leadlership. Focus groups and push pull polls are a poor excuse from real people with real concerns.  You need a grassroots, bottom up strategy. I think that the analysis from CP, echos what was said about the recall campaigns, particularly, in Pubelo.

    The legislation had no guarantees.  Plus, the tax increase was great at a time of real economic uncertainity.  As a senior on a fixed income, we and our friends, including retired teachers, were scared about the final inpact on our budgets about the increase.  I, for one, don't want to spent one more of my tax dollars on consultants.  I think that Denver school administration is too big.  It is a bureacracy that spend most of its time talking to itself.  In Denver, we have approved mil levy increases and bond issues.  Still, the poor schools get worse the rich schools thrive.  


  7. mamajama55 says:
    • What people haven't said yet is that there was real reason for the cynicism of Colorado voters about the money going into classrooms and for kids and teachers. Amendment 23, passed in 2000, was supposed to increase per -pupil funding. Instead, the legislature manipulated the interpretation of the law so that per-pupil funding actually decreased, and the funding kept on dropping:
    • Hick proposed using A23 funds to make up other budget shortfalls, and was eventually able to do so.
    • SB191, the teacher effectiveness bill which was supposed to have magically increased test scores from high-poverty schools, didn't.  Because, surprise! Principals are subjective human beings, who like teachers who kiss up best, and really don't enjoy relying on test scores for evaluation. My students scores exceeded expectations two years in a row in DPS, and I'm still out of work because I'm outspoken.

    Unfortunately, with the defeat of 66, flawed as it may have been in its conception and communication to voters, this downward trend will continue. Poorer districts will continue to communicate to their students that they are not worth clean buildings, whole desks, new books. Districts will continue to hire newer and cheaper teachers, rather than more experienced veteran teachers. 

    Textbook and testing publication companies are the real winners – there is always money to pay them, and they have good lobbyists. They continue to promote curricula which often is rigid, absolutely mandates "teaching to the test", since they publish both the curriculum and the tests, and do not "fit" the majority of urban students without extensive scaffolding work by teachers, who already work a 60 hour week  at a low-end salary.


    I think Bluecat has the right idea – get rid of all of these conflicting politically-based budget measures, and let the legislature be free to act in the best interests of Coloradans.

  8. ElliotFladen says:

    The misrepresentation regarding Amendment 66 was that there was a misrepresentation in the first place.  If you had some integrity you would admit to that instead of linking to an article that was thoroughly debunked.

    • Davie says:

      Debunked by whom, Elliot?  The Cumitty tuh just say Nuh Uh to Edjimication?

    • Ralphie says:

      Nobody takes you seriously, Elliot.

      Good luck.

    • ElliotFladen says:

      I can care less if you take me seriously.  Fact is the article linked was bunk.  It based its idea that an anti-66 was misleading on the false notion that prior dollars could not be moved around into funding PERA.   That was spelled out in the comments and no good response was ever provided.  

      • Duke Cox says:

        I can care less if you take me seriously.


        Though we seldom agree on things, I think you are generally pretty articulate in your never ending habit of defending the indefensible.


        You have omitted the word "not" in the quoted phrase above. That omission reverses the actual meaning of your words. I think you really mean "I can not care less if…". You are an attorney and you should pay attention to details like this in your verbal presentations.

        This isn't an ad hominem criticism, Elliot. I am just being my usual pedantic self and this misuse of my beloved English language is one of my pet peeves (yes, there are others). But, if you really want to continue to appear inadequately educated…well, that is your prerogative and your choice. You may, of course, ignore this friendly reminder, and if so,  I couldn't care less…wink

    • DaftPunk says:

      Elliot said it was debunked.  In the link he tried and tried to debunk it, but convinced no-one.  Ergo, the argument is debunked, and this argument and associated post should be deleted.

      What's wrong with you people?

  9. notaskinnycook says:

    I'm with you and Bluecat, MamaJ, but good luck prying the authority NOT to be taxed out of the hands of the selfish Republican-leaning electorate in this state. And if the people who tepidly support these tax increases haven't figured out that the anti- taxes-for-any-purpose crowd are more more reliable voters than pro-civic/education types in off-off-year elections, they will keep losing these low turnout contests. The pro-tax proponents keep trying to run these things during "school board elections" fanasizing that people will just vote "yes" on a whole column of questions without really reading them. They hope voters will just remember that they saw a "vote yes on…" with pictures of big-eyed schoolchildren. But tax elections ain't UNICEF. Those ads don't tug at anyone's heart.  Also older voters whose kids are grown, don't feel like they have a dog in that fight. Someday maybe some of the more-taxes-for-better-living types wil get a clue.

  10. dwyer says:

    I think Bluecat has the right idea – get rid of all of these conflicting politically-

    based budget measures, and let the legislature be free to act in the best

    interests of Coloradans.


    – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/52821/2013s-top-ten-8-the-slaughter-of-amend-66-and-how-it-changed-school-board-outcomes#comments


    This is a great idea…as many ideas are.  And, how, mj55, do you propose to do this?  BC admits that "

    d like to see budget making power restored to our elected legislators but I don't think they want it back. This way they don't have to bear the responsibility.  


    – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/52821/2013s-top-ten-8-the-slaughter-of-amend-66-and-how-it-changed-school-board-outcomes#comments


    I  like the Bruce Amendment, only because it allows taxpayers to vote on proposed tax increases.  It also carries with it the provision that governmental units can vote to "debruce."

    I guess this close to the New Year "pie in the sky" is being served.  

    • mamajama55 says:

      Not really pie in the sky, dwyer. Just have to chip away at it a little at a time, unfortunately. Keep electing legislators who feel that government is potentially good, not evil. Most of those will be Democrats, as the Republicans are pretty committed to privatizing education and starving government by decreasing all taxes.

      Referendum C, which passed in 2005, allows the state of Colorado to "retain and spend money from existing revenue sources above the TABOR limit each year beginning in FY 2005-06." (Wikipedia, Taxpayer Bill of Rights)

      TABOR, Doug Bruce's Taxpayer Bill of Rights, was written into the Colorado Constitution, which makes it difficult, but not impossible, to amend. If it can be done , it can be undone. It's not just schools that are suffering – highways, social services, parks in general have been underfunded for years, although not as badly as they would have been without Referendum C. Maybe there can be "strange bedfellows" of hunters and recreationists allying with educators to roll back TABOR even more.

      I agree with many of the points other writers have raised – that relying on political consultants from out of state does not work. I was asked to volunteer for A66 work, and declined because I knew that it would involve voter contact, but no input into messaging. Volunteers are theoretically valued by these campaigns, but no one listens to volunteers.

      I don't blame teacher's unions, fashionable as that may be, Dark Cloud. If CEA is bankrolling the campaign, then by all means they have the right to market themselves, as well. Most Americans still respect teachers and give them more credibility than, say, politicians. And after SB191's failure to be the magic bullet that raised test scores, I think that voter cynicism would have made people less likely to believe that kids would be getting measurable results.

      The A66 ads I saw – for paraprofessionals working in primary grade classrooms, for PE and music classes – were fact-based. Research has established that smaller class sizes with more adults result in better class management and better learning. Inviting electives do retain and motivate kids, especially at the secondary levels, and especially with kids who learn best visually or kinesthetically, instead of auditorally.  But, except for special ed, no one has been able to hire paraprofessionals in Colorado schools for almost a decade. And poorer districts continue to shed art, music, and PE programs, trying desperately to improve so as not to be destroyed by NCLB law.


      • dwyer says:

        Pie the Sky, revisited:

        @mj55 Re your statement: 

        Keep electing legislators who feel that government is potentially good, not evil. Most of those will be Democrats, – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/52821/2013s-top-ten-8-the-slaughter-of-amend-66-and-how-it-changed-school-board-outcomes#comments

        -We Democrats can not even keep in office for a full term the legislators we have already elected.

        RE: this statement: Doug Bruce's Taxpayer Bill of Rights, was written into the Colorado Constitution, which makes it difficult, but not impossible, to amend. If it can be done , it can be undone. – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/52821/2013s-top-ten-8-the-slaughter-of-amend-66-and-how-it-changed-school-board-outcomes#comments

         -Taxpayers just rejected by a 2 to 1 margin, Amendment 66.  So how are you going to pass these amendments?

        RE: this statement'

        The A66 ads I saw – for paraprofessionals working in primary grade classrooms, for PE and music classes – were fact-based. Research has established that smaller class sizes with more adults result in better class management and better learning. Inviting electives do retain and motivate kids, especially at the secondary levels, and especially with kids who learn best visually or kinesthetically, instead of auditorally.  But, except for special ed, no one has been able to hire paraprofessionals in Colorado schools for almost a decade. – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/52821/2013s-top-ten-8-the-slaughter-of-amend-66-and-how-it-changed-school-board-outcomes#comments

        – Democrats have to carry Denver by a wide margin if we are to win in statewide elections.  In these arguments are generic and do not specially have relevance in Denver. in 2003, we passed a mil levy to guarantee art and music in all elementary schools.  We have decentralized control in DPS schools. One

        school in an affluent neighborhoos raised $250,000 last year and hired its own staff, included paraprofessionals.  Other schools in poor neighborhoods have to photocopy text because there are not enough textbooks to go around.  There was nothing in #66 to correct this kind of distribution of wealth. There was plenty of money in #66 to fund "planned obsolescence" so beloved by the beloved by the reform industry.  But, we already have plenty of money for that in Denver.

        • dwyer says:


          Obsolescence; and  the beloved was repeated twice

          Clarification:  The school raised $250,000 to hire its own supplemental staff, including paraprofessionals.

          I do not condone the use of foul language on this blog.  EXCEPT, today, I would like to join a fellow blogger who in no uncertain terms complained long and loud about the lack of a posting guide and noted that this format is almost a year old. and still has problems.  For me,  still NO Preview screen….no red highlight for misspelled words…..


          I sense a right wing plot.

  11. Meiner49er says:

    I said it in November, and this series of post confirms it once again.  The Right was unified against 66, while those on the Left who should have favored it were split–deeply–on the intent vs. the content of the legislation.  No amount of ad buys or consultants can resolve such a split at the heart of a measure, and thus 66 was defeated.

    Additionally, though I tire of pointing this out to the Polsters–there is this county north of Denver called Larimer.  I live there.  66 had the same impact on the Thompson R2J School Board up here as it did in JeffCo, and it was part of a concerted Republican strategy to begin to build a base/bench in swing counties in order to turn Colorado Red again.  Colorado's Dems will feel the impact of this in '14 and '16 unless they pay more attention.

  12. DavidThi808 says:

    I agree with most everything that has been said here. But I want to add two items:

    1. I don't see any way you get approval until you get the retirement and benefit growth stopped. Not reduced but held consistently to grow at a rate equal to inflation. Until that occurs first, many voters will view additional funding as an indirect way to pay more into retirement/benefits.
    2. I think voters want to see significant improvement before they increase funding. Voters know that funding has outpaced inflation for decades and they don't see any improvement for it. So it's a hard sell that more money will improve things.

    I voted for A-66 even though if I had to place a bet, I would have bet that the money did not make it to the classroom and there would be no improvement. I did so because I thought it was a fair ask after SB-191 was passed and implemented. And like the man who gets married the second time, hope triumphed over experience.

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      My Republican-to-English translator . . . 

      1.  I ain't supportin' nothing that isn't screwing teachers as badly as I do my unpaid interns. 

      2.  Send 'em all to Regis. 

      . . . it's good to be a 1%er!!

      • dwyer says:


        To quote a Mullen legend:  "What is your point?"

      • DavidThi808 says:

        Shooting the messenger won't win elections. Also all of my company's interns are well paid.

        • BlueCat says:

          David you are so biased against teachers you are the last person I would look to as a messenger on any issue touching public schools. It's not so much shooting the messenger as taking the bias of the messenger into account. 

          I think the cause of the failure was a lot simpler. People have suffered a lot since the dark Cheney/Bush years tanked the economy and, though it's stopped tanking and started getting better pretty much as soon as Dems came in, it hasn't been anywhere near enough due to constant GOTP obstruction coupled with Dem please-don't-think-I'm–not-almost-as-fiscally-conservative-as-hard-righties cowardice. 

          People are still struggling, still feel strapped and insecure. Any tax increase is going to be a hard sell. Legislators used to make these tough decisions. They no longer want to take that heat, are happy with leaving it to the general electorate which pretty much guarantees that even stuff people like isn't going to pass if it calls for any increase. The shrinking middle class isn't feeling the love for tax increases period. 

          • DavidThi808 says:

            I'm not biased against teachers in general. I have a ton of resepct for good teachers. I am biased against crappy teachers and think they need to be identified and fired.

            • mamajama55 says:

              It's much more complex than that. A good teacher with one population can be terrible with others, and a teacher who is warm and friendly with great relationships with students can be less than rigorous in her/his content delivery.

              Someone who knows all of the right things to say in meetings and props up the Principal's ego can be  terrible  relating to students and providing feedback with grades.  All of these factors are aggravated by under-funding and lack of administrative support and leadership in school discipline.

              Schools are not factories. You can not put in specific inputs and expect specific outputs across socioeconomic differences. Poverty impacts student achievement, and high stakes testing, which has broken up and disorganized so many schools, has done so much more harm than good. Standardized testing and high standards are great – "We'll break up your school and make you all unemployed if you don't achieve ___ benchmark in ___ time" is punitive, and only helps those who wish to further privatize education for profit.

              • BlueCat says:

                It's been my observation over the years that David does seem to view everything through a business/widget model, more specifically his own business model in his own economic sector, so good luck with the whole schools aren't factories thing in any discussion with David.

                • Ralphie says:

                  He views everything through HIS business model.  That's not necessarily a business model in general.  Nor is it a good one.

                • DavidThi808 says:

                  Nope. What I view it through is measuring what works and what doesn't work. And that the quality of the teachers are fundamental to the success of schools and therefore, we need good teachers.

                  If we don't measure the impact teachers have and hold them accountable, we can't improve a key part of the educational system. And it needs to be more than the teachers, we need to do the same for the principals, the district administration, all of it.

                  And as I said above, schools are presently factories and that's a big problem too.

              • notaskinnycook says:

                On the idea that schools are not factories, MamaJ, I beg to differ. That is eactly what schools have been since the advent of compulsory education. It's what public schools were designed to do. Train children to arrive at a prescribed time, remain at their assigned position, do the work set before them faithfully and quietly, however dull and uninteresting it might be, and to remain in place until dismissed by a mechanical signal. Without difficulty I located this story on the need to change how schools operate in light of changing employment expectatons: http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/09/01/the-single-best-idea-for-reforming-k-12-education/

                I was surprised to read that part of your comment, as I am certain that you've heard of "the factory model of education."

                P.S. I can't seem to get this link to "go live" but the address can be copied and pasted to a search engine.

                • mamajama55 says:

                  Cook, it's a conflict of ideals reflected in standards and assessment, vs. factory-like administrative structures.

                  In education reform, the current fashion is to embrace the "non-factory" models, and declare that we value independent thinking and problem solving. At the same time, as the article you linked to states:

                  … the biggest problem is a preoccupation with, and the application of, the factory model of management to education, where everything is arranged for the scalability and efficiency of “the system”, to which the students, the teachers, the parents and the administrators have to adjust. “The system” grinds forward, at ever increasing cost and declining efficiency, dispiriting students, teachers and parents alike.

                  But given that the education system is seen to be in trouble, there is a tendency to think we need “better management” or “stronger management” or “tougher management”, where “management” is assumed to be the factory model of management. It is assumed to mean more top-down management and tighter controls, and more carrots and sticks. It is assumed to mean hammering the teachers who don’t perform and ruthlessly weeding out “the dead wood”. The thinking is embedded in Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind.

                  That last would seem to be the model with which David T808 agrees.

                  School and district bureaucratic structures mandate and perpetuate the factory model,at the same time that the new standards, requiring creative thinking and problem solving, measure completely different qualities.  So education administrative structures are not aligned to the standards by which we measure educational growth.

                  Education, as anyone knows who has worked in it, goes through approximately 3 year fashion cycles, more or less aligned with the elections of school boards and superintendants.  So every three years, we swing from "core knowledge", ie. content knowledge, to "competency" and "mastery".   Education fashion is big on alliteration, too: the current slogan is "Relevance, Rigor, Relationships".

                  There is a hopeful trend towards moderation, towards being really research-based, and not swinging to extremes every three years. However, this trend is countered by the influence of corporate money in education. Every textbook and test company has a "silver bullet" system to sell, and every one of these companies tries to get districts to buy  it and be the guinea pig so that, eventually, IF good test scores result, the company can then claim to be truly "research based". It's a goddam racket.

              • DavidThi808 says:

                I agree with you 100% that teachers do better with some populations than others, and that variance can be great. A significant part of the problem is schools not assigning teachers the populations they work best with.

                I disagree with your comment that schools are not factories though. One of the big problems schools face is that they are factories, but should not be.

            • BlueCat says:

              Whatever. Those of us who have been around here for a while know that you don't think very many teachers aren't crappy. You also don't seem to see any connection between the high quality you demand and pay to match that quality. Your general contempt for teachers in public schools has been hard to miss over the years and it's no wonder quality teachers get sick of that attitude and opt for better paying jobs in other sectors after a few years of working their tails off  while being everyone's punching bag.  

              Makes me think maybe they haven't all been sufficiently enthralled with your perfect and brilliant angels?  Don't answer that. Rhetorical really. Have a very Happy New Year.

              • DavidThi808 says:

                I think teachers, like every large organization, fall along the Bell curve. So a small number of superb teachers, a large number of good ones, and a small number of crappy ones. (You seem to think they're all wonderful based on your posts.)

                I'm not that worried about the schools that have populations like the ones my kids went to. When they would get a crappy teacher the parents have the time and knowledge to work with their kids to get them through the class. They have parents focused on keeping them motivated in spite of a teacher turning them off of their subject.

                What I worry about are the schools that have poorer populations. Where parents working 2 or 3 jobs who don't have the time to help, and if they did, don't have the educational background to help their children. They can't afford a tutor. A demotivating teacher can have an outsize impact on a child.

                Just a couple of poor teachers can leave that child stuck in a cycle of poverty. That's what I want to see improved.

  13. dwyer says:

    This thread began with an opinion piece posted by ColoradoPols focusing on the lost of Amendment #66  and attributing it to a badly conceived and executed campaign. It is not a debate about educational reform or a critique of people who have the audacity to post their opinions here.  Although both topics would be good to have at another time.

    I would like to thank both mj55 and BC for their posting because I think they so beautifully illustrate on of the main attitudes  behind the loss of #66. That is the atttude that attacks any opinion that is not part of the democratic 'group think".

    David votes and he was explaining his vote.  That kind of information is critically important in understanding how voters "outside the sacred circle" may have felt about the amendment.  I appreciate David's honesty and I note that he vote for the amendment, even with his reservations.

    What is puzzling to me about mj55's comments is that she complained mightly about the inability of "outside consultants" to "listen" to people on the ground. And yet, David was summarily dismissed.  I think, mj55, your comments are interesting, but I think you should be arguing this with the teachers' unions.

    The attitudes displayed by these two ladies remind me of the way Hudak dismissed the testimony of the rape victim during the debate on concealed carry.  Hudak was criticized by the recall advocated because of her inability to listen to her constituents.


    If these attitudes continue to dominate in those DEmocratic circles planning campaigns, then I think the losses of the recalls, the Hudak resignations and #66 will be repeated in 2014.



    • Duke Cox says:

      inability to listen

      Pot…meet kettle.


      "outside the sacred circle"

      I am actually offended by your use of this term and your persistent refusal to listen to anything other than your right wing radio heads and whatever other crap that makes you so unfailingly insulting and abusive of anyone who doesn't agree with your perpetual panic.

      Sacred circle, my ass. I try not to let your derisive condemnation of anyone who tries to be positive, confident, and hopeful, get under my skin…but this time you have stepped a little too far over my line.

      I am not going to ask you for an apology for accusing us all of "group think", because I don't think it would be sincere and I really don't respect your opinion enough to care. Your insinuations of my/our collective ability to see and think clearly are a very mean and spiteful way to interact with people who have, as far as I can tell, tried to be tolerant of your constant hand-wringing.

      I will have to rethink my decision to tolerate your oppressive negativity with good humor and kindness….





      • dwyer says:

          i appreciate your comment about my use of "sacred circle."  I did not realize that it could have meaning in a religious or spiritual  way and so I do apologize.

        As for the rest of your comments, I do not think that this is a good time for Democrats in Colorado.  I think that the so-called "failure to listen" is one of the reasons for all the losses.  

        Why do you think the Democrats have lost?  This is the focus of this thread.  I think it is an important discussion.

        Perhaps you might give  some examples, fo where I persistent refusal to listen to anything other than your right wing radio heads and whatever other crap that makes you so unfailingly insulting and abusive of anyone who doesn't agree with your perpetual panic. – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/52821/2013s-top-ten-8-the-slaughter-of-amend-66-and-how-it-changed-school-board-outcomes#comment-534428

        Or, Your insinuations of my/our collective ability to see and think clearly are a very mean and spiteful way to interact with people who have, as far as I can tell, tried to be tolerant of your constant hand-wringing. – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/52821/2013s-top-ten-8-the-slaughter-of-amend-66-and-how-it-changed-school-board-outcomes#comment-534428


        Most importantly, I don't want Democrats to lose control of the US Senate in 2014 because the real danger is turning over the SCOTUS to the conservatives.  I don't want Democrats to lose control of the Colorado State Senate.  I think there is a real danger of that happening.   Hence, my comments on trying to understand why the Republicans, including right wing radio hosts, have been so successful.

        I post questions here and they go unanswered.  So let me ask you three:

        1) Why did the democrats in Colorado lose  these critically important  elections om 2013?

        2) Why the Republicans win same elections?

        3) What are the dems doing right now to win in 2014?



        • Duke Cox says:

          Questions 1 & 2 have been answered again and again to the point of absurdity…but YOU refuse to accept anyones' answer but your own.

          The Democrats are working hard to win the elections in 2014 by doing all the things that have won us so many elections..the ones you refuse to recognize. For Gods' sake, Dwyer…I have watched Colorado turn from a red state to a decidedly bluer shade of purple ever since 2006. Something you obviously have chosen to ignore.

          Please do not repond to this, dwyer. I have no inclination to continue to engage in a discussion of your inane and impertinent comments. You do not listen to any opinion that contradicts your conviction of impending disaster. Trying to convince you of anything is like pissing in the ocean…you can do it all day with no noticeable effect. From this point on, I will do my best to ignore your posts. Please give me the courtesy of doing likewise.



          • dwyer says:

            You distort what I posted.   I certainly have not disregarded what other people posted about reasons for losing the recall elections.

            I think there is still much to learn about what happened in Pueblo. I don't think that the factors that caused Hudak to resign have begun to be explored.  I think that they need to be. That is why I asked your opinion. As for #66, I have posted from the beginning that the state of the economy was the reason for its failure.  I add that if the dems had been "listening," they would have picked that up from their constituents and party regulars, early on.

            There was an excellent discussion on "Colorado Inside Out" on Friday night and the rare consensus was that Democrats had vastly overestimated the "blueness" of the state.  And that the "blow back" may cost them the Colorado Senate in 2014. My opinion is not unique, it is being discussed in many different venues.  It just is not tolerated by some of you, when I post it.  I don't  know any of you so I don't know  if you are a party official or activitist with influence.  If so, and you are pissed by me, the feeling is mutual. What are you trying to convince me of?  That the dems are "just fine?" They are not.  And, I do not know what is being done to correct the situation.

            Here is the question, DC,  you refused to acknowledge, let alone answer:

            3) What are the dems doing right now to win in 2014? – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/52821/2013s-top-ten-8-the-slaughter-of-amend-66-and-how-it-changed-school-board-outcomes#comment-534449

            I do have a good idea about what the Republicans are doing.


            • MADCO says:

              If the D's lose the CO Senate next year it will be because either they nominate weaker, less popular candidates, or the R's nominate stronger more popular candidates.

              If we learned anything about winning and losing elections in Colorado 2014, from the 5 recalls of 2013  it is this: turnout is crucial and mail-in ballots increase turnout. It's not nuanced or complicated – but it is true.

              Meanwhile, the reistance to your posts is easy to see, so I am not sure if your insistance on explanation an elucidation is legitamate or…something else.  When D's win, you complain they did not do enough party building or down ticket work (also implying they are not left enough to be real D's).  When D's lose, you shake your head and cluck knowingly because they just wouldn't listen.

              If you want to support a candidate who would do exactly what you think needs doing – run.

              If you cannot see or accept that any other candidate is going to be a weak next best choice – try yoga or diet and other exercise to jeep your blood pressure safe.  


              Carry on.

          • BlueCat says:

            From this point on, I will do my best to ignore your posts. Please give me the courtesy of doing likewise.

            On your first point I'm going to do my best to control myself and do the same.

            On the second point so much for asking for "the courtesy of doing likewise".

            • Duke Cox says:

              The sad part is …

                   your comment about my use of "sacred circle."

                I did not realize that it could have meaning in a religious or spiritual  way and so I do apologize.

              My objection to the use of that phrase has absolutely nothing to do with religion or spirituality. It is a reaction to the unmitigated arrogance of a person who cannot admit they are wrong and resorts to the tactic of pointing a finger and crying, "elitists, elitists!".

              The insinuation is unacceptable and I am done with it..


    • BlueCat says:

      Anybody who has read my posts over any length of time knows I'm not a group think type.  As for lumping Mama and me together, you must have missed our extended disagreement on what went wrong for Giron. Mama is no more group think than I am and that's why we don't always agree.

      My comments were specifically about David's take, mainly not even directly about the issue involved, based on years of reading his comments on this subject and I stand by them. But then your world only has two settings so if I don't wholeheartedly support all of David's hyper-critical attitude and don't entirely agree with his analysis I must be a mindless group think what me worrier because there are no settings in your world between 1 and 11. 

      I also stand by my opinion that the main factor was no appetite for any increase for any reason period at this time in this economy. It's an opinion I haven't seen much of on this blog and certainly not on this thread but I guess, since it doesn't echo yours or David's, it must be group think regardless of the apparent lack of much of a group.

      No wonder you're so relentlessly gloom and doomy. Try looking at the world, as well as at other people's opinions, in color for maybe five minutes a day instead of confining yourself to black and white. If you turned off rightie radio for those five minutes a day, that might help too.

      • DavidThi808 says:

        I do agree that it needed an even more compelling sell in the present economic environment and so that did have a large impact. But the main thing I heard from people up her in liberal/well off Boulder was that we keep paying more money and it never gets better.

        • BlueCat says:

          Certainly there was that sentiment too but for something required to be passed state wide please bear in mind that what you hear around "liberal/well off Boulder" is not going to be the best basis from which to generalize in analyzing what happened across Colorado.

  14. mamajama55 says:

    dwyer, dwyer, dwyer….

    I talk with teacher's union people all the time. And every progressive liberal/moderate not insanely tea party person on here has much to thank the NEA for….not only contributing dues $$ but people power in getting progressive candidates elected. 

    So I'm not really sure what you think I should be discussing with the teacher's union. I already am unemployed as a full time teacher because of "discussing"issues about inappropriate curriculum and dictatorial admin structures with administrators and school board members. The teacher's union at least doesn't try to take away my livelihood for disagreeing with whatever the fashionable educational buzzwords are at the moment.

    And yeah, I still think that Democratic party committees and issue committees would do very well to call a meeting of their volunteers a couple of times a week and ask everyone for input into strategy, how things are working with voter contact, etc. It's a small thing, that could make a big difference. Paid consultants might disagree, but the really good ones are secure enough to tolerate some dialectics.

    That's it. That's all I think we can do to win in 2014, other than supporting good candidates (looking at you, Mr. Bowman!)

  15. dwyer says:



    I am thinking specifically of what happened to teachers in DPS last Spring.  Due to the new kind of evaluations, some experienced teachers were denied tenure (although I am not sure if they may have been tenured or were still probabtionary, but experienced from other Districts)  What went on their permanent record was that they were ineligible to ever return to teach at DPS.  It was  career destroying, based on principal evaluation that may well have been personal.  It was Merida, the much criticized DPS Board Member who managed to get the BOE to authorize  a review of the affected teachers.  IMHO, the DCTA should have been on top of this way before it got to that stage.  Your discussion of all the factors that should go into teacher evaluation because they impact those factors beyond a teachers' control is an argument that I think the DCTA should have made more foceable.  Now, my posting has gone off topic, but I will return to #66.

    I agree with your suggestion, wholeheartedly: And yeah, I still think that Democratic party committees and issue committees would do very well to call a meeting of their volunteers a couple of times a week and ask everyone for input into strategy, how things are working with voter contact, etc. It's a small thing, that could make a big difference – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/52821/2013s-top-ten-8-the-slaughter-of-amend-66-and-how-it-changed-school-board-outcomes#comments


    So a question and a comment:  Why don't do this?

    Comment:  If they had, they might have picked up long ago, perhaps before

    the legislation putting #66 on the ballot had been finalized, people were worried about the economy and about their personal budgets.




    • mamajama55 says:

      I am also one of those DPS teachers who can't ever work in the district again, after 10 years of satisfactory evaluations and two years of greater-than-expected student growth on CSAP. So my heart goes out to those teachers who are in the same boat. I didn't know about Merida's advocacy, since I was in Pueblo by that time.

      I know some of those teachers….their "fatal flaw" (and mine) was advocating for the union too strongly, or speaking up too forcefully, criticizing policies or curricula. There are whole schools that had strong union faculties, now broken up into charter schools and the entire staff displaced or let go. As far as the union's forcible advocacy, there isn't much the union can do for probationary teachers (those in their first three years of work in the district). They can be dismissed for any reason or none. For tenured, experienced teachers, the Principal has to do a whole lot more work, and in theory there is due process. I did not find it to be a fair process – probably it wasn't for other teachers.


      So, life goes on. I'll eventually get hired by another district, or complete my master's and go into writing instead. Meanwhile, I'll substitute.

      DCTA does a good job, but like all urban teacher unions, it is an organization under seige, from the right, and now seemingly from the left, as well. After the propaganda movie "Waiting for Superman" came out, many leftists got part of the story on school reform, and are now quite willing to see teacher unions as the enemy, blocking meaningful educational reform.

      While the truth is that NEA is in the forefront of educational reform, advocating for those policies that do lead to educating children to be creative problem solvers, and not just products of an educational warehouse process.

      As far as the "campaigns listening to people on the ground" thing, what's blocking that from happening is pretty much the engrained habits and culture of campaign managers. If I choose to get involved in another campaign, I'll advocate for this reform. I always speak up, and people either tolerate or ignore me. If they ignore me, I tend to get less involved.  I also think that campaigns should not hire consultants or managers from out of state, and dare I say, I think that older, more experienced people are better able to relate to local concerns than are "young turks" generally.   Young Turks are hired because they work cheaply, have the requisite internet skills, and are in college programs appropriate for internships.  Veterans are better.

      It's a bunch of "little things" that add up to alienation or buy-in- things like choosing whether or not to do campaign presence at traditional local events, whether to have enjoyable music or yell at people through a bullhorn, etc. Anticipating your next question, dwyer,  I've said all of these things before, and probably will again.

      What are you going to do to make education and democratic campaigns better?



  16. dwyer says:


    I am really sorry that you are no longer at DPS. I think all of what you have said is true about the situation in  this  sad, sad District.  I think that the Foundations, with all their money, influence what is happening in DPS. and that has been true for many years.  I don't know what went on with DCTA. I don't think they have been as focused as they should have been on what has been happening.  

    Denver eliminated its residency rule for teachers many years ago and I think that has contributed to the loss of power of the DCTA because so many of its members don't live in Denver.  One other factor is one that can not really be documented.  But, I believe that the real supporters of Denver teachers are the parents of newly arriving kids.  The parents are undocumented and can't vote and are very cautious about calling attention to themselves.

    Your question challenging  what am I doing is absolutely legitimate. I was active in DPS  for many years, advocating for neighborhood schools.  Time and time again, one came up against Big Money and Big Foundations – with their own agendas.

    I am not now, because of health concerns.  As for local politics, I live in Denver, in a solid Democratic district.  Suggestions about how we might be more effective nationally, were met with polite indifference.  One of the concerns I deal with, is how assertive do I want to be with my neighbors and friends?  Particularly, since the only power they have is to "go along to get along." I saw how the Bennet/Romanoff primary had a devisive impact.  I think that divide lingers still, (I was a Romanoff supporter).

    This is not the only place where I blog.  I do answer right wing "talking points" in those places when I can so that, at least, another perspective can be heard.  Sometimes I am published in more traditional forums, but most times, I am not.

    I just saw an email that DeGette sent out asking for constituents priorities.  I have not read it, so I don't know if it is veiled request for money.  However, I will answer it.

    I think that the discussions on this blog are constructive until they deteriorate into personalities.  My sense of urgency about the Democratic activities is based on my long experience at looking at the political scene and my feeling that I, personally,  don't have many elections cycles left.  

  17. mamajama55 says:

    Five myths about American education. or, How Our Schools Could be so Much Better …..Interesting short slideshow. I found it on Evie Hudak's FB page.

    Turns out that we're not behind countries with similar childhood poverty rates. We just happen to have the largest rate of kids in poverty of any developed country. surpriseSo, to "catch up", we need:

    • More early childhood education (reverse sequester cuts and add more)
    • target resources to neediest schools (A66 was supposed to do this)
    • provide adequate time in the school day for lesson prep, grading, and collaboration (Colorado schools are doing this)
    • use tests to help teachers help students, not to punish teachers and schools
    • treat teachers as professionals, support where necessary
    • collaborate with community, welcome community into the school (that's not from this slideshow, but from "High Performing Hispanic Schools"
  18. saofner says:

    One factor not mentioned in this or any thread about the failure of 66 is the failure of the measure to win by a substantial majority in Denver.   For any such measure to win in Colorado, Denver's margin must be much greater than the 28,017 out of 138.317,  with which carried in Denve, far to small for such a measure.  From this on-the-ground observer, one reason for its failure of support in Denver was the $40 million spent by Denver School District for new administrative offices and their recloation to a larger building downtow.   These funds came from a measure passed by the people for classrooms.  This, with the earlier approval of high risk financial instruments in place of lower risk bonds, seems to have soured those who could be seen as the most supportive of our schools and their adaquate funding.   Let us hope that the newly elected board memebers keep this in mind as they take office and oversee the funding of our schools.

    • BlueCat says:

      True that stuff like this has to win big in Denver and I'm sure the factors you mentioned played a part for some. I still think the biggest factor was that it just wasn't a good time to ask for more funding for anything. Most people really don't pay that much attention to policy details.

      I also do understand the frustration of people who keep being asked for money and don't see a whole lot in the way of results or see it put to the uses they had in mind. Definitely we need iron clad guarantees that the money we're asked for is going to go directly into the classrooms, including into the infrastructure upkeep of the school buildings so students have a health, safe learning environment , not more office space for an already bloated administration.

      Until every student attends school in an adequately heated/cooled, plumbed, wired, leak free, well repaired building with enough decent books and other learning materials, equipment and decent facilities for lunch, recess, PE, music and art, the grownups in administration should just make do with the office space they already have. If that means limiting the number of administrators, that's probably not such a bad thing.

    • notaskinnycook says:

      I'm glad I continued following this thread and read this post. I don't have kids, so I don't pay much attention to the school system until election season. At that point I will read up on board candidates and the proposed use for bond issues.

      That money earmarked for classrooms went to new digs for the admin. folks, who never set foot inside a school infuriates me. It's not the teachers' fault, but the next time a bond issue comes 'round, it's reasonable for voters to ask "what'd you do with the 40 million dollars we gave you two years ago?" 

      It reminds me of the campaign to pass LOTTO, with a promise that the proceeds would go to prison constrution and maintainance. Then GOCO sued the state claiming that ALL lottery money belonged to them; so the prison system fell back onto the general fund. That was long enough ago that I get quizzical looks when I mention it. It's about the same crummy deal








    • dwyer says:


      I discussed the failure to pass #66 by a large margin in Denver on this thread.

      – Democrats have to carry Denver by a wide margin if we are to win in statewide elections.  In these arguments are generic and do not specially have relevance in Denver. in 2003, we passed a mil levy to guarantee art and music in all elementary schools.  We have decentralized control in DPS schools. One

      school in an affluent neighborhoos raised $250,000 last year and hired its own staff, included paraprofessionals.  Other schools in poor neighborhoods have to photocopy text because there are not enough textbooks to go around.  There was nothing in #66 to correct this kind of distribution of wealth.

      – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/52821/2013s-top-ten-8-the-slaughter-of-amend-66-and-how-it-changed-school-board-outcomes#comments

  19. Moderatus says:

    The failure of Amendment 66 is a great victory for small government, but a major factor was the Obamacare disaster. Smart people are fleeing big government "solutions," and won't pay another dime into a failed bureaucratic system that doesn't work for them. Show value before you ask for taxpayers another dime.

Leave a Reply

Comment from your Facebook account

You may comment with your Colorado Pols account above (click here to register), or via Facebook below.