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Why Care about the Colorado Board of Education?

The Colorado Board of Education (CBE) has a direct impact on the quality of our schools and what kind of education system our public tax dollars will support.  One reason you should care about the Colorado State Board of Education (CBE) is that the CBE has authority to release school districts from some state statutes and regulations.  In other words, it can grant waivers to charter schools so they do not have to conform to state statutes that govern the operations of public schools.   To understand why this matters, we need to understand a bit of history about what the waivers mean and where the authorization to grant waivers originated.

 

School districts can pursue waivers under the Innovation for Schools Act passed in 2008.  Currently, the CBE automatically grants all charter schools 18 waivers involving laws related to benefits, hiring and firing. Additional school-specific waivers address curriculum.  Since charter schools are publicly funded by tax dollars in the same way as pubic schools , the waivers mean that your tax dollars are funding schools that underpay their teachers, do not require teachers to have state-required teaching credentials and allow schools to bypass state-defined curriculum standards, usually to accommodate religious beliefs.

 

The passage of the Innovation for Schools Act was part of the larger right-wing education agenda to undermine public education by removing funding and weakening the role of teachers (for more information, please see our series of Fact Sheets addressing the right-wing education agenda).

 

The Innovation for Schools Act is one of those Colorado laws that was written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to facilitate the development of private, for-profit charter schools.  Compare the wording of the model ALEC bill to Colorado's Innovation for Schools Act and you will see a striking resemblance. 

 

ALEC is a far right/libertarian organization that is led by corporate lobbyists and corporate-friendly politicians.  It introduces model bills into state legislatures across the country to relax environmental regulations, produce stricter voter identification laws, strip power from labor unions, loosen gun laws, support private prisons and divert public tax dollars to private schools through vouchers, among other corporate-friendly schemes (if you do not know about ALEC, please learn about the organization.  We have a Fact Sheet that is a good place to start).

 

ALEC pushes for the privatization (and segregation) of schools.  Along with groups such as Americans for Prosperity and Democrats for Education Reform (a misleading name), ALEC has been targeting Colorado to not only pass "reform," but also to ensure the election of school board members friendly to their privatization agenda.

 

IndivisibleNOCO believes that a strong education system, including well-payed and credentialed teachers, is an asset to our State and benefits everyone whether or not they have children in schools.  Good schools provide an educated workforce pool from which our whole economy can draw and on which the State can rely for economic growth.  Colorado’s public schools must be supported with a sensible funding strategy to mitigate the harmful impact of the TABOR and Gallagher Acts and taxpayer funds must not go to private and religious schools in the form of vouchers or other schemes to degrade resources for public schools and Colorado’s children.  Public school teachers must be honored and compensated for the work they do.

 

The CBE has a direct impact on the quality of our schools and what kind of education system our public tax dollars will support – which is why we should all care about who is on our Board of Education and what values they bring to the job.