Counties like Douglas and Jefferson in suburban Denver have become political flash points in local and state politics as conservative boards of education duel with teachers’ groups.
But after news last week that Jefferson County’s school board voted to reject the teacher salary recommendations of a neutral fact finder, teachers themselves are looking to leapfrog their boards entirely, protecting their jobs and their vision of public education by putting in serious time for state lawmakers who they consider to be pro-teacher.
“The [JeffCo] board majority has a history of waste, secrecy and disrespect to the community,” said Larry Spotts of the Jefferson County Education Association at a canvassing event for State Senator Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood) this weekend.
High on the teachers’ minds this weekend as they canvased for Kerr was what Spotts calls the secret pay scheme School Board President Ken Witt produced last meeting when the board rejected the fact finder’s recommendations about teachers’ raises. Spotts says the pay scheme is a carbon copy of Douglas County’s approach which he believes is driving good teachers out of that district.
Kerr himself echoed the teachers’ concerns about transparency and cooperation.
“JeffCo has always been known for everyone working together, and recently that history has been tossed out the window,” Kerr said, adding that education was the number one issue constituents wanted to discuss with him and thanking the dozen or so teachers gathered for their door-to-door support.
“What I believe Sen. Kerr stands for is just what I stand for, as do many educators — first and foremost to stand up for all students,” said Frank Reetz, an eighth grade teacher in JeffCo who spent Saturday canvassing for Kerr.
Kerr is running for re-election in JeffCo’s senate district 22 against Tony Sanchez, whose platform includes school choice and strong opposition to the Common Core.
[Note: In talking about the balance of power in the State Senate Dean Raizman refers to overall percentages. The concrete seat split is 18 Democrats, 17 Republicans.]
[Video and still by Nate Koch.]