DougCo school board: Koch group lost the battle but aims to win the war

AFP launches five-figure post-election ad campaign

DougCo school board: Koch group lost the battle but aims to win the war

In Colorado, the Nov. 7 Election Day in Douglas County didn’t mean the end of efforts by Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers.

The group, which played heavily in the contest for control of the Douglas County School Board, might have lost its battle for school vouchers and other measures aimed at privatizing public education, but it’s still angling to win the war.

Today, AFP-Colorado said it plans to spend five figures to support its agenda in Douglas County now that four new school board members who are not simpatico to its agenda have been sworn in.

A major issue in the race was over private school vouchers.

Before the Nov. 7 election, the board was divided 4 to 3, with a conservative majority. That majority flipped on Election Day when a slate of four candidates who oppose vouchers —  Krista Holtzmann, Anthony Graziano, Kevin Leung and Chris Schor — won. 

Related: Douglas County’s politically charged, voucher-driven school board election explained

At issue is a Colorado Supreme Court case about the constitutionality of a scholarship program to give students in Douglas County thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded vouchers per year to attend a religious or secular private school in or out of the district. Colorado’s highest court blocked the program and it was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court, however, kicked the case back down to Colorado for review, and the DougCo school board race was seen by many as pivotal for whether the legal fight would continue. The new voucher-opponent members in a majority are expected to scrap the program and make the court battle moot. So Americans for Prosperity is funding an ad campaign aimed at parents in support of the voucher program as the board sets to meet Monday.

The latest campaign follows a bitter school board race in which conservative reform interests clashed with teachers unions. Big money poured in from both sides. Churches and religious groups even marshaled their own troops to help the pro-voucher front.

Related: Religious groups are involved in big DougCo school board race

This week, the new board members “mostly concerned themselves with house-keeping measures … and didn’t take up the voucher program,” The Denver Post reported. “The board can end the funding to defend the program in the courts but so far has not indicated when it may take on the issue.” 

But, Americans for Prosperity Colorado, which is making conservative education reform a top priority here, plans to keep hammering its message in the district regardless of what happens with the voucher program.

The new school board “must put the needs of school children before any political belief,” said AFP’s state director, Jesse Mallory, in a statement. “Ending this program before it even has a chance to succeed and provide real change in our communities would be extremely shortsighted. If the board believes they should deny children more educational opportunities, AFP-Colorado will hold them accountable.”

So far, AFP will run a digital advertising campaign urging interested citizens to sign a petition supporting school choice.

“If the board votes to remove educational choice for families, we will consider additional accountability efforts,” said AFP’s deputy state director Tamra Farah. She declined to say what those efforts might look like.

Bottom line: The group isn’t going anywhere.

Photo by Yusuke Umezawa for Creative Commons on Flickr. 

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About the Author

Corey Hutchins

is a journalist in Colorado, and Columbia Journalism Review's Rocky Mountain correspondent for the United States Project. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyHutchins and email him at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.

3 Comments

  1. Julie Keim on said:

    The new Douglas County school Board was elected by a clear margin. They very publicly conveyed their message that they would not continue to support a program that used public funds to support biased, discriminatory and unaccountable private educational entities. The Kochs and Americans For Prospoerity have used the platform that the people had spoken through election and created a mandate when previously elected Reformers chose to implement the Choice Scholarship Program in 2011, despite being contrary to the State Constitution and in opposition to the will of the informed electorate of Douglas County. Despite six figure spending by AFP to promote vouchers and a coordinated effort by local churches (that stood to benefit financially from the pass through of public funds to their secular schools) tried to strong arm their members to vote for candidates who would support vouchers, the anti-voucher candidates won by a clear margin.

    Interesting that an organization that touts local control and the limitation of federal influence in our schools, would now push to drive an agenda that is contrary to the will of the people solidified in the last election. While politics belong nowhere in education and public education policy should be consistent with proven strategies and an inclusive environment, AFP continues to push a failing agenda to support the political will of ideologues who live outside the area of local control. If AFP truly believes in the will of the people, they should take their dark money and use it to fight the assault on local and national campaign laws that try to remove the voting and First Amendment rights of individuals in favor of the rights of corporations and organizations that use their money to insert themselves in the business of the people. That is an AFP campaign I could get behind.

  2. Will Morrison on said:

    ANY time you see “Americans for Prosperity”, SPIT on it and walk away. The Koch brothers are behind the DESTRUCTION that is going on in THEIR state, Kansass, and now they want to bring that right wing miracle to the rest of the country. And they have their mitts ALL over our state. These people are SCUM and need to be treated as such. They have NO business messing up OUR state, too. Tell the Koch brothers what they can do with their money and where to SHOVE their DESTRUCTIVE MONEY BASED POLICIES. Notice that THEY don’t live the way the insist that YOU do.

    Don’t EVER let these VERMIN fool you. They aren’t on YOUR side, they don’t give a flying damn about your kids. They want YOUR MONEY, PERIOD. This is ALL about how to steal even more from you than they have in the last 40 years. And that has been PLENTY.

    The rich are NOT the answer to your problems, the rich ARE the damn problem. There isn’t a single problem in this country, indeed, the WORLD, that isn’t started, nourished and continued by the damn rich. The rich are NOT the solution, the rich are the PROBLEM. These two are a PERFECT example. More money than several small countries, and rather than try to make life better for anyone else, they are out trying to make life WORSE for all of us. And THIS is who the republican party thinks needs MORE money, while YOU need less.

    It come down to a matter of rewarding the rich for SCREWING you and your family, or doing the RIGHT thing and taking away what they are using to do that with. YOUR SURVIVAL or THEIR EXTRA WEALTH. What do you think helps YOU out more? And if you buy the republican LIE about how giving them more money means jobs for us, please show me ONE example of how that happened. I know of NONE, and I don’t believe there are any. They are like UNICORNS, damn it. I don’t BELIEVE in unicorns, and neither do ANY other SANE ADULTS. Why do people STILL believe this OBVIOUS NONSENSE? Time to stop doing that.

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