What is the union agenda in the Douglas County School race? The answer depends a great deal on whether you believe the hype or look for evidence.
On Monday, Westword posted a fundraising email sent October 22 from John Ransom, chair of the Douglas County Republican Party, calling it a “hide-the-children” approach to electioneering,
As Chairman of the Douglas County Colorado Republican Party I write you with disturbing news. Liberal outside special interests are trying to influence our local Douglas County elections. They have contributed thousands of dollars to their hand-picked candidates. They set up shadowy groups to send mailers to Douglas County mailboxes. They are organizing to win local elections.
I am surprised as you are with their activities.
Later, Ransom contends that AFL-CIO, which is associated with the American Federation of Teachers, the parent organization for the Douglas County Federation of Teachers, has been “been spending millions upon millions to push a far left agenda nationally.”
If that is what they are doing on a national level… what could they possibly want to do here — on the local level in Douglas County? I shudder to think…
Meanwhile, at EdNews Colorado, Mike Erickson, a Republican and high school teacher in the Douglas County Public School system, details his frustration with the phone calls he has received from GOP bigwigs. All of them allege that Douglas County School District has become Ground Zero for unions fighting to take control of the country.
Most recently, Senator Ted Harvey… suggested (implied) in a “robo-call” that the AFL-CIO and ACORN together with the union where “helping implement Obama’s radical education agenda here in Douglas County.”
Governor Bill Owens suggested on my phone the other day that his good friends (I find that hard to believe) are running and I needed to vote for them NOW. He suggested the unions were spending all kinds of money and wanted to run our schools. Where is the evidence?
At issue is still the question that Erickson asks: What evidence proves the unions have pegged Douglas County School District as their first stop on a world-conquering tour?
Here is what the GOP does have evidence of: the teachers’ union was the first to unofficially endorse some candidates, by way of contribution. As noted by a comment below Erickson’s letter, the American Federation of Teachers gave contributions to one candidate as early as December, 2008, ($2,500 to Sue Catterall, according to the Secretary of State’s website)—long before the official Republican endorsements.
However, not all of those who have been endorsed by the Douglas County Federation of Teachers have received union money. Kevin Leung has not received any money from AFT, nor has Kristine Turner (though she has received money from people affiliated with the local union and AFT). Those two candidates did not receive any endorsement until September, long after the GOP’s July endorsements.
There is also evidence, per the Secretary of State’s website, that the AFT has set up a 527 group to support its candidates and issues. The group, called “Accountability for Kids,” lists its purpose as “evaluating individuals in Douglas County on education issues and informing the public of this information.”
But the Douglas County GOP has provided no conclusive evidence to support its other, more damning, allegations: that the Douglas County School Board election is AFL-CIO’s springboard for winning future elections in the county; that if union-supported candidates win the Douglas County School Board election, AFL-CIO will be better able to push its agenda in Douglas County; that the unions are trying to take over Douglas County Schools in order to control the curriculum and inject biases into the classroom; or that the unions hope to bring their alleged spendthrift and wasteful ways into the school district, in order to profit by way of union dues.
In fact, underneath the surface of Ransom’s “hide the children” tone is hedgy language. Ransom writes that the union goal is “likely” to use the Douglas County School Board election as a springboard for winning future elections. He writes vaguely and without evidence that “in some parts of the country” unions control teaching materials and inject biases into the classroom.
And for serious allegations—like a claim that the “entire goal” of the teacher’s union is to take complete control of Douglas County schools—his evidence is that “some have said” this.
“There is no telling what they might do in our County,” he writes. Perhaps because there’s nothing to tell, at least nothing remotely resembling the accusations made by Ransom.
To read the full text of John Ransom’s fundraising email, go here.
To read Mike Erickson’s letter and the ensuing debate, go here.