UPDATE: The Denver Post’s John Aguilar, here come the lame excuses:
Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, said the jettisoned ceremony was particularly relevant to Jefferson County students because it would have involved the enactment of House Bill 1323, a hotly debated test reduction measure.
“The look on kids’ faces when they get to meet the governor and he has a bill in front of him that is about to become law — that experience for students is incredible,” said Kerr, who teaches at the online Jeffco Virtual Academy…
Jefferson County Schools has been through a tumultuous year, with a flood of negative headlines generated over a controversial curriculum proposal and superintendent selection process. District spokeswoman Lisa Pinto said a visit from the governor, accompanied by a potentially large media contingent, “would be difficult for our schools to accommodate,” especially on short notice.
Even more unforced bad press for the Jefferson County Board of Education’s conservative majority, as the Colorado Independent’s Kyle Harris reports:
Jefferson County public schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee told Governor John Hickenlooper’s office and Colorado lawmakers that they’re a security risk and unwelcome to conduct bill signings in the district’s schools, says the governor’s Chief Strategy Officer Alan Salazar.
Superintendent McMinimee found his district embroiled in controversy last fall when the newly elected conservative school board proposed updating AP US History curriculum to deemphasize chapters of “conflict” — such as Native American genocide, slavery, the civil rights movement –and to downplay the way protest and civil disobedience have brought tremendous social change…
Now, with the district refusing to host the governor and lawmakers, observers are wondering if the political history of the present seems equally suspect to the board.
Top staffer for Gov. John Hickenlooper Alan Salazar vented his frustration via Facebook:
Still trying to get my head around learning last week that the Superintendent of Jeffco Schools informed legislators and our office that the Governor of Colorado could not do a bill signing at any district schools because his presence at such an event presented a “security risk” to students. Really? Seems to me that any school would welcome a governor and legislators for a real life example of our democracy in action. Apparently not in Jeffco.
Gov. Hickenlooper’s chilly reception in Jefferson County differs notably from his experience just last week at a northeast Denver elementary school:
Responding to the Independent’s story, Jeffco Schools communications officer Lisa Pinto says that “a week did not give us time to cover his security needs and figure out logistics for our students,” which is completely absurd. As the Independent notes in two updates to their story today, Pinto says it would be just fine for the Governor to visit a Jeffco school next fall, to “see our incredible staff and students at work,” and just by coincidence when the fall school board elections are that much closer! Commenting on Alan Salazar’s Facebook post, Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs offered a school venue within his jurisdiction instead.
We’ve been closely following the antics of the Jefferson County School District since a conservative majority took control of the Jeffco School Board in 2013, as regular readers of Colorado Pols and Jeffco Pols well know. Long ago, we stopped being surprised at the idiocy of top Jeffco officials and spokespeople, and for good reason–rarely do a few weeks pass before some new bit of nonsense news trickles out of the Jeffco Administration Building. But we can’t help but be a little shocked now and then, and this incident certainly qualifies as an eyebrow-raiser.
Bottom line: this is a completely ridiculous and counterproductive political snub for these low-level officials to deal the Governor of Colorado–especially for a group mired in as much ongoing political controversy as the Jeffco school board. Refusing an offer for the governor to sign a bill at a school in their district is spiteful and combative to an unacceptable and pointless extreme. There’s no good excuse for denying Jeffco students a chance at valuable civic education, and there’s not even a political downside for this conservative board majority to allow Hickenlooper to use a Jeffco public school as a backdrop (though we can see why they’d rather have Hickenlooper there in the fall to give them electoral cover).
Apart from students robbed an opportunity to see government in action, the only negatives here are for Superintendent Dan McMinimee and the conservative board majority–who doubtless were party to this decision. It’s the type of petty nonsense that voters tend to remember, and a politically asinine decision to boot.