The hard left of American politics sits on a stool with three matching legs; the Democratic Party, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and labor unions. In Colorado, one of those legs just got kicked out from under the goodfellas.
In 2009, one conservative community in Colorado determined to improve the economic and social outlook for their children by upgrading its K-12 education system for the 21st Century. With a voter affiliation advantage of better than two to one, the county Republican Party was able to stack the majority of the local school board with conservatives by effectively broadcasting its endorsements.
The teachers union, an affiliate of the ACLU, was certainly concerned. Like their model for nearly every other large school district in the U.S., they maintained a happy control of the board, the labor force, and the superintendent.
The community’s desire for relevant, world class preparation of its youth simply was not part of the education establishment’s equation in 2009. There were many a great teacher who stood tall in the face of the systemic stagnation. But Douglas County Colorado wanted, and their young students deserved, a rising tide for all boats.
The community leadership recounts today that they did not, at the time, realize the big fight that they were picking four years ago. The Douglas County School District operates on a half-billion-dollar annual budget for its 61,000 students, 3,200 teachers and 70 schools. And the teachers union enjoyed $1,300,000 in dues every year with nearly zero expenses, as the school district was also picking up the salaries of their leadership.
The county GOP had never before paid attention to the Board of Education election, as it was officially “non-partisan.” But after significant internal debate, the party selected a slate of four conservatives and launched a campaign. With the threat of disruption, the union responded with its slate. The total dollars spent to elect the four conservatives in 2009 was approximately $120,000. The community responded enthusiastically, with an average of 60% of the vote going to each of the four conservatives.
This was an investment that paid quick and substantial dividends. A driven, innovative, and visionary superintendent was hired; a human resources director was recruited from General Electric; a pay-for-performance program was implemented; and a voucher program was developed in coordination with several local, private and even religious-based schools. The ACLU sent its team of lawyers to challenge the voucher program, which is now in its third round of legal escalation. At this point, the school district is ahead in the judicial scoring.