[dropcap]C[/dropcap]omments made by Republican candidate for governor Bob Beauprez in an interview last Friday have struck a nerve in Colorado’s Jefferson County, where students, parents and teachers are clashing with the local school board over a host of proposed conservative reform initiatives including, most dramatically, changes to US history course material.
Board member Julie Williams proposed revisions to the standard Advanced Placement History curriculum that would “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights,” and “not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”
The proposal prompted student and teacher walk outs as well as community protests, where community members flooded the streets. The protests have made national news. Another one is scheduled for this Friday, and more than a thousand people so far have said they plan to attend.
“What we’ve got going on in JeffCo right now is a bit of a complicated situation,” Beauprez said in a forum at Metro State college on Friday.
“I think the school board, an elected school board, they have a proxy from the citizens of Jefferson County to review that curriculum and to opine about that curriculum,” he continued. “And the remedy — if the citizens, the voters, decide that the school board has made a mistake — the remedy comes pretty quickly, in the next election. That’s the way I think it should work.”
The comment hit a nerve for Shawna Fritzler. She’s a registered Republican with a nine-year-old daughter who attends a JeffCo public school. She’s also the president of her school’s Parent Teacher Association and a citizen-chair of the JeffCo public school’s planning and advisory council. She said she is frustrated to see a top-of-the-ticket politician weigh in during an election year without enough context.
“Bob Beauprez says to take it to the ballot box,” she said. “You want me to wait three more years of my nine-year old’s education? My daughter has to wait for an election? That’s asinine.”
Michael Clark, who runs the Citizens for Responsible Education site dispensing information about the JeffCo school board, added that the frustration in area goes beyond the content of the proposed changes to curriculum and results from what he sees as the board’s long-term lack of transparency and openness to community input.
“The reason so many people have been speaking out is the district already has 24 different policies regarding curriculum review,” said Clark. “We already have two standing committees for this very process which are comprised of half community members and half curriculum specialists.”
The man Beauprez is running to unseat, Democrat John Hickenlooper, called the JeffCo clash a “classic conflict where the kids lose.” He said he supported the AP curriculum currently in place, saying students should learn about both Martin Luther King Jr. and the Boston Tea Party.
Representatives of the College Board have said they would pull Advanced Placement recognition if the kind of curriculum review outlined by Williams were put in place.