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October 02, 2014 10:25 AM UTC

Jeffco School Board Troubles Impacting 2014 Election

  • by: Colorado Pols
GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.
State senate candidate Tony Sanchez is one of many Republicans who probably wish they never took that picture next to Jeffco School Board member Julie Williams.

THURSDAY UPDATE: The Jeffco Board of Education is scheduled to meet tonight, and they are expected to use their 3-2 right-wing majority to ram through an initiative to change the curriculum of high school history classes. Community outrage, be damned.


We've written before in this space that the controversy surrounding the Jefferson County School Board would inevitably bleed into key races in 2014; it was only a matter of time that the biggest story in the most important electoral county in the state would break into the election cycle. As Nick Riccardi reports for the Associated Press:

The protests over a Colorado school district’s proposal to promote patriotism and de-emphasize civil disobedience in American history classes have found their way into the state’s marquee election races, injecting a volatile issue two weeks before early voting ballots land in mailboxes across the state…

…At its Sept. 19 meeting, the board proposed creating a committee to review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” and don’t “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

The ensuing walkouts brought criticism from some candidates, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, a former congressman who represented Jefferson County. He said the board is within its rights to consider the adjustments.

“They have every right to discuss curriculum,” Beauprez said. “What this is really about is the continuing tiff between the teachers union and the elected majority.” [Pols emphasis]

His opponent, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, criticized the proposed curriculum changes.

We were a bit surprised, frankly, that this question didn't come in last night's Gubernatorial debate, though Bob Beauprez had already stepped in the mess on Friday. Yesterday The Colorado Independent followed up on Beauprez's school board comments from Friday; unsurprisingly, Jeffco parents are not pleased:

“What we’ve got going on in JeffCo right now is a bit of a complicated situation,” Beauprez said in a forum at Metro State college on Friday.

Republican Bob Beauprez on Jeffco Schools

“I think the school board, an elected school board, they have a proxy from the citizens of Jefferson County to review that curriculum and to opine about that curriculum,” he continued. “And the remedy — if the citizens, the voters, decide that the school board has made a mistake — the remedy comes pretty quickly, in the next election. That’s the way I think it should work.”

The comment hit a nerve for Shawna Fritzler. She’s a registered Republican with a nine-year-old daughter who attends a JeffCo public school. She’s also the president of her school’s Parent Teacher Association and a citizen-chair of the JeffCo public school’s planning and advisory council. She said she is frustrated to see a top-of-the-ticket politician weigh in during an election year without enough context.

“Bob Beauprez says to take it to the ballot box,” she said. “You want me to wait three more years of my nine-year old’s education? My daughter has to wait for an election? That’s asinine.” [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).
Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

The Jeffco School Board controversy is unlikely to be resolved any time soon, which means it should continue to generate questions for a number of candidates — particularly those who are trying hard not to provide an answer. Again, from the Associated Press:

The students’ passion brought the praise of Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who called them inspiring, and said he hoped the school board would listen.

Rep. Cory Gardner, the Republican challenging Udall, wouldn’t weigh in, saying it was up to Jefferson County and that the federal government shouldn’t get involved. [Pols emphasis]

This is a pretty stupid answer from Gardner, who could have addressed the situation in a manner that didn't involve a shrug and a generic "not my problem" response. Gardner missed an opportunity to empathize with voters in a county he cannot lose if he hopes to defeat Sen. Mark Udall in November, and by declining to address something that other statewide candidates are not ignoring, Gardner left the door open for someone to ask the same question again. October is crammed full of candidate debates and forums, and plenty of reporters will want to be the first to get Gardner on the record here.


23 thoughts on “Jeffco School Board Troubles Impacting 2014 Election

  1. The Board of Ed is going to double down tomorrow night. The curriculum review committee is on the agenda, and I predict they are going to pass it (after they have removed the offending language about "promoting citizenship" and "not encouraging dissent"). For the Dems, this is the gift that just keeps giving.  They should do everything they can to keep this in the news cycle as every one's ballots arrive in the mail. I said it elsewhere, there are 10's of thousands of voters that want to vote against Williams, Witt, and Newkirk, but they are not on the ballot. They Dems need to encourage a proxy vote against Beauprez and Gerdner.

    1. The Republicans have had success using teachers unions as a scapegoat–don't think the tide can't turn in Jefferson County too. 

      Democrats would be prudent to hit back and do everything possible to avoid letting the “teachers union” meme stick.

      1. They can focus on this.  This is a grassroots reaction against the pattern of actions by an out of control, renegade group of school board members that can damage the quality of the JeffCo schools.  The board serves the community, it isn't supposed to dictate unacceptable policies and curriculum changes, while alienating good teachers.  This has nothing to do with the union and everything to do with the board. 

        Someone will be loving the smell of recall in the morning.  Get that effort underway, asap.  I would, and I don't particularly like recalls.  

  2. I detect a storm a-brewing with the gop/bagger cult of Colorado…This Koch puppet school board will do everything within its power to ignore and to marginalize the parents and Union…that is the m.o. of the dark money folks…the Kochs have been at this for a long time…and we are seeing the fruits of their labor…it is good that the national spot light is shining on our problem…ALEC beware…Koch boys…back off…

  3. All the bitching is nice and everything, and it certainly is helpful statewide that the school board loons will likely combine with the state senate loons to ensure (D) control of the legislature again.  But…

    This is going to keep going on for the next 3+ years while the nutTEAbags continue their reign.  It's not like these folks will be hit with a sudden case of the rationals just because people are protesting.  Listen to the board and their supporters: protesting parents are sore losers, protesting teachers are union thugs, protesting students are dupes and punks.  You folks down in Jeffco need to wake up and shake up.  Get some money and good professional organization and recall one or more of these folks.

    As for the new commission, it can still do all the things Williams wanted, it's just less specifically nutty.  The committee can still be loaded with the "godly Christians" Ms. Williams' friend put out the call for.

    1. Unfortunately, a recall election would be tricky. If the sufficient signatures are collected for only one, the challenged board member can resign.  (Hereafter known as the "Hudak maneuver"). The board would be deadlocked on a replacement, and ultimately Witt, as president would appoint.  Expect this to happen is there are sufficient signatures for Williams. Therefore, at least two petitions need to be circulated.

        1. Exactly. Wing nuts have been taking over school boards since the original self proclaimed moral majority movement decades ago.  All this attention could at least motivate a counter group to form in time against the wacko group in the future. It doesn't take that many votes to win these ultra low participation elections. Problem is the wackos have been the only ones really going after them. National money comes to them from their fellow wackos like the Kochs but honestly, taking over  school board is pretty cheap.

  4. I'm pretty please with Udall's comment praising students/teachers, hoping school board will pay attention. More clear than what I had suggested for him

  5. I don't know how much damage it will do to the statewide candidates but it could really wreck havoc in the local legislative races.  It can't help Tim Neville that his relative is showing how boorishly and arrogant Republicans behave when they get into positions of power.  Their timing on pulling this power play couldn't have been any worse but it's such predictable behavior that you can't call it an October surprise.

    1. I suspect Jeffco school board right wing actions could easily motivate fence sitters to punish the other right wingers up and down the ballot.  In fact given the statewide publicity, it isn't much of a stretch to believe this could account for a point or 2 swing overall away from Repuglicans.

      Beauprez has made the consequences of a GOP administration very concrete for voters.  And if Eli Stokels interview with Gardner can be used in a pro-Udall ad, then the entire state (instead of just us) will see Con Man Cory for the lying POS that he is.

    1. Gilpin Guy wrote: "it can't help Tim Neville that his relative…….."   Davie wrote:  "I suspect that Jeffco school board…….could easily motivate fence sitters……."   "could be used in a pro-Udall ad….."

      Bad news guys. It ain't gonna happen unless somebody takes some initiative. I live in JeffCo and have yet to get one single piece of campaign advertising in my mailbox. I get the Lakewood Sentinel weekly and almost nothing there in way of ads for reasonable legislative candidates, other "down ballot" runners. There is splashback on the school board in the Sentinel, but nothing about how the far righties on the board are similar to other far righties.

      Udall's campaign is so bad that his staffers are almost begging to lose; how about talking something other than womens' issues. Yes, it's a good issue, but getting pretty stale by now.

      Advice is that if you and others who share your views want things to go as you outline; you have to take what you write on this web site and put it into more concrete action. Example: either of you volunteering for Conservation Colorado's get out the vote efforts?

      Regards (and good luck),    C.H.B.

      1. We'll see CB (this isn't a pseudonym for DB Cooper is it?).  In my experience, parents are tigers when it comes to their kids education.  It's like Medicare or Social Security for seniors.  You don't go there during the height of an election season.  Period.

        Here is Jeanne NIcholson's (Neville's opponent) newsletter from yesterday.

        Vince Carroll, the editorial page editor for the Denver Post, is normally quite conservative in his outlook. It is the very rare column he writes when I find myself in agreement with him.  But his week he wrote a column about the Jefferson County school board that I had to agree with.  


        Here is the link to Vince Carroll's column to read for yourself:


        Jeanne and her dog Mongo.

        The new majority on the JeffCo school board has turned deaf ears to the students, parents and teachers who have been appealing to them to reconsider their ways.  And, as Mr. Carroll points out, they appear to be tone deaf to what U.S. History teaches us as well. 


        My constituents who I talk with door-to-door tell me they don't want the new majority to continue to pick fights that disrupt the school system.  And they don't want JeffCo schools turned into a clone of the Douglas County school system either!


        I oppose the new board majority's headstrong approach that seems to reject collaboration with anyone that doesn't agree with their point of view.  If you agree with me, please contribute to my campaign.  The more elected officials like myself that speak out against what the new board majority is doing, the more likely they will finally back off and start cooperating with everyone who has a stake in the Jefferson County public schools.

  6. This is absolutely true. As a democrat turned independent voter, I was looking for a new party to align with. What I was hearing from the Tea Party organization (reduced government, transparency, following the Constitution) all sounded like a party that I could get behind. Until I saw them in action in the Jefferson County School Board. I have watched as they have limited and disregarded public input, ignored their own governing policies (which seem similar to a Constitution to me!), used facts and data that support their crusade and completely ignored data that doesn't, and tried to break a system that wasn't broken because they were "hired" by billionaires that are throwing their money around the country to break unions and start a charter school movement that segregates students and lines the pockets of investors. Because of their actions, I am now following the Tea Party movement again, in order to find candidates to vote against. Bob Beauprez lost my vote the minute that he aligned with elected representatives that care nothing for what their constituents have to say. 

        1. With all due respect, please do not pass on.  A petition has zero actual effect, except that it gives the appearance of doing something.  An actual recall requires proper signature gathering.


  7. This is what happens when ou have politicians using our children as POLITICAL PAWNS !!!

    That's OK though.  Last time I checked, Colorado DOES have a RECALL process (Ironically it was CONSERVATIVE voters who used it)

    Apparently GOP & Tea Party seem to think they're somehow "Immune" from being on the RECEIVING end though…..

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