National head of DFER after Colorado Democrats’ platform vote: ‘We’re not going anywhere’

The national head of Democrats for Education Reform responded to the dramatic rejection of his organization at the Colorado Democratic Party state assembly with a simple message: We’re not going anywhere.

In an email to supporters that he also posted on Medium Thursday, Shavar Jeffries laid out his credentials as a Democrat and said disagreements over education policy should remain a “family fight.”

“We understand that on some issues, some in our party disagree with us,” Jeffries wrote. “We welcome that disagreement, and we welcome the debates that ensue periodically. We stay true to our principles because we believe our vision best reflects the values of the party and the outcomes we seek for young people.

“But we will fight  –  when fights are necessary  –  anchored in the understanding that this is a family fight and thus we will not engage in the politics of personal destruction against those with whom we disagree.”

Jeffries went on to blame the election of President Donald Trump on an unwillingness among Democrats to set aside their differences.

“Trump is president to a large degree because progressives and liberals engaged in a civil war over the 10 percent of policies where we might disagree, as opposed to uniting around the 90 percent where we agree,” Jeffries wrote. “Hillary Clinton was booed at the DNC convention in 2016 by the same forces that still seek to sow division within our party. Our unity is our best weapon against the ongoing assault to our democracy visited upon the country each day by Trump.”

Jennifer Walmer, the head of the Colorado chapter of Democrats for Education Reform, was booed down by delegates at Saturday’s assembly. Those delegates went on to adopt into the official party platform a call for DFER to stop using “Democrats” in its name.

Former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, who has the backing of the teachers unions, won 62 percent of the vote at the party assembly. The platform vote happened later in the day, after some of the more than 3,000 delegates had left.

It’s not clear how the platform provision could be enforced. Some members want the party to send a cease-and-desist letter to Democrats for Education Reform, something the Los Angeles Democratic Party tried in 2012, with no apparent effect.

The Colorado vote drew cheers and jeers locally and around the country. In New York City, one blog called it a “ray of sunshine” that could signal cracks in support for reform policies. Meanwhile, conservatives used the vote to cast Democrats as extremists. The editorial board of the Colorado Springs Gazette said it represented “a far-left shift in the Democratic Party.”

Education reform has become an increasingly divisive issue within the Democratic Party. Since the 2016 presidential election, opponents of a suite of reform policies, like charter schools and test-based teacher accountability laws, have increasingly sought to tie Democratic proponents of these policies to the unpopular president and his education secretary.

Jeffries said his organization would not be dissuaded by those tactics.

“If our intra-party opponents would prefer counter-productive family warfare as opposed to unity around shared values, this should be clear too: We stand with the millions of families across our country demanding access to high-quality public schools and the thousands of elected Democrats who fight tirelessly to ensure they get it,” he said. “We are not going anywhere.”

You can read Jeffries’ entire statement here.

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Erica Meltzer on April 20, 2018. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools. Photo of Shavar Jeffries courtesy of Newark Trust. 


  1. Fine. Languish, just don’t use our name, because folks like you who would destroy original public schools that serve the masses–the original Democratic intent–in the name of choice, aren’t serving the masses. And you know it, Mr. Jeffries. Choices are expensive for all families despite charter equalization legislation, and not all families can afford it and you know this Mr. Jeffries. The ones who cannot aren’t in your Schools for the
    Millions that you laud. Do you have kids and where do they go to school?

    Fine, stick around, just drop the “D”,

    May I suggest this:

    RRFER. Real Republicans for Education Reform, because you got to be smoking something to make me believe that you, and your ilk, have the masses’ interest in mind.

    CREPT. Colorado Reformers of Education from Preschool through Trade School. Because you crept out of the woodwork.

    ARRFS. Actually Republican Reformers for Financing Schools. Sounds like dogs yappin’, missed their quarry, yo.

    PFFT. School Public Finance Fakers, Truly. A balloon deflating. Hint. .

    FARRT. Financiers for Any Republican Reform Target. Uh.

    Okay. I’m digressing. But as ridiculous as these sound, it is ridiculous for you to suggest that we keep fighting it out–all in the family–families that have a problem child–a real problematic child, like you guys–send them off to military school. The kid, so pissed, seeks to change his name.

    So please, just change your name and take off the sheep’s clothing. Easy enough, Shavaar?

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