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.
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.
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.