School Boards and Mama Bears

  • Posted: November 1, 2021
  • Category: Blog
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The first Tuesday in November – once again we are invited to the polls. In my case, the election of a new majority to the Jefferson County School Board beckons. These three newly elected people will join two incumbents in the oversight of an enterprise budgeted at a $1.3 billion and charged with schooling 80,000 students. I believe that budget number to be questionable. The actual number may be well north of $1.3 billion as various “special” allocations exist. A rigorous accounting of all monies spent by the educational establishment is in no one’s interest, at least no one in any position able to do a rigorous accounting.

By past standards, this year’s election is a low key event compared to the fireworks in the  bygone days of the Tea Party. As is also customary, the ballot once again includes the education establishment’s desire to put a hand in someone’s pocket. Our “schools” increasingly resemble that familiar man in the median at the stoplight with outstretched hand and sad story of the moment.

Proposition 119 is on the ballet, likely a slam dunk, as it proposes a tax on the “Reefer” industry to benefit “our kids”. Who doesn’t want to take a stand and support “our kids”, especially it it’s free? Do we like virtue signaling or what?

Some years past, Colorado gained national notoriety (admiration) for ridding our State of the corrupt con game that was medical marijuana and just legalized the whole she-bang. Mostly unremembered at this remove was the framework of marijuana’s legalization, the bargain put before the imagined sober and judicious voters of Colorado’s electorate.

The tax revenue from legal marijuana sales would go to the school system in what was once known as a “sin tax”, a phrase now rendered antique as sin has become a word without meaning. Har har – we fooled those hipsters smoking funny cigarettes!!

Though as time passes, one wonders who fooled who, but that is a subject for another time. My own cynical perception is that the chief accomplishment of Colorado’s voting process might be thought of as a reliable fund raiser for Colorado’s schools.

The expected vote count in this election is estimated to be 90,000. Of course, I don’t know any of the candidates, though it must be said that one of the candidates taught my children at Columbine High School. I did meet her some few times. This ignorance probably speaks poorly of my civic engagement, even more poorly of my parenting skills. But then I make no claims for myself beyond a general air of apathy as at this remove I am reduced to shaking my fist in futile rage at the indignities visited upon me by age and irrelevance.

In this election as in past elections, I shall consult my mail box for direction. For some time now, our mailbox receives a steady stream of slick half page sized mailers, full color and very professionally produced. These mailers extol the candidacy of Paula Reed, Daniella Varda and Mary Parker who appear to be running as a team.

A retired English teacher, a tenured professor of “social connectedness” at DU and a retired “engineer”. It must be said in passing that while this trio is obviously burdened with “white privilege”, i.e. unleavened by the important truths learned through having one’s distant ancestors suffer oppression and social injustice, at least they are not men.

It seems that the trio are billing themselves as the “Jeffco Kids Slate”. Their proposed platform might be described as the modern suburban equivalent of “God, motherhood and apple pie”. Though on a side note, one is left to ponder the disappearance of all three from present campaigns. Of the “Jeffco Kids Slate” thoughts on the screeds roiling Fox News and the Adorable media, their campaign literature and web sites are mercifully silent.

But amidst the squalor of detritus and misogyny in a brain both cynical and failing, old scurrilous men such as myself can only wonder, “Where is the money for the “Jeffco Kids Slate” campaign coming from? How can they afford all of this slick campaign literature?”  Purposeful grazing in the Internet’s pastured meadows leads me to a site tracking such mundane minutia as political funding.

Per this no doubt reliable information from the Internet, it seems that the “Jeffco Kids Slate” has raised $ 255,000 while the opponents of Jeffco Kids have raised $ 30,000. Given that the political complexion of Jefferson County is fairly conservative, the wide disparity in fund raising raises one’s eyebrows when one learns the opponents of Jeffco Kids are the conservative slate of Theresa Shelton, Kathy Miks and Jeffrey Wilhite”.

Suspicions aroused, one searches the campaign literature and web sites for insight into this disparity. After all, this imbalance in The Force must have a reason. In this school board election, the Jeffco Kids are spending over $ 3 per vote cast, nearly $4 per student enrolled in the schools, not counting the “dark money”. Given the candidates’ identification as the “Jeffco Kids Slate”, are Jefferson County students going door to door raising funds, perhaps even petitioning to empty their 529 accounts, in support of those who would be their champions?

But upon further investigation, cynicism reigns. Not only has the “Jeffco Kids Slate” raised over a quarter of a million dollars, but they have also been supported by very substantial “outside spending by independent committees”. This sort of outside spending is known as “dark money”, cited by the responsible media as prima facie proof of corruption when used to support non-progressive campaigns. In fact, in certain corners of the Internet meant for a niche audience rather than the casual news browser, “Jeffco Kids Slate” is acknowledged as “the union slate”.

While the source of this large sum of money supporting the “Jeffco Kids Slate” has become clear, one is left to wonder why? Given that there are 4,700 teachers in Jefferson County, their contribution to the “Jeffco Kids Slate” works out to about $ 65 per teacher, again not counting the “dark money”. Given that a Jefferson County teacher’s average salary is around $ 52,000 per year, this is a not insubstantial sum.

One suspects that as Sherlock Holmes was fond of declaring, “The game is afoot!” One suspects there is a great deal afoot. Given the fairly large number of school teachers in my social circle, I have reason to think that “actual” teachers and the union representing them have very little knowledge or involvement with each other.

One is given to wonder, what is the quid pro quo for this very substantial investment of union money in a school board election, especially when one realizes that Jefferson County is simply one among many? You laugh right? Given the fact that nearly one third of the delegates to the Democratic Convention are “teachers”, I am virtually certain that there is a thundering herd afoot.

I have earlier rued the general apathy ruling my civic engagement. While it is my own specific burden to bear, it is a failing shared by many. But in our defense, as our civic institutions grow ever larger, they grow ever remote. And as our civic institutions grow ever larger and remote, they increasingly fall under the sway of “professionals” and “experts” who deftly remove their workings from oversight or influence of any hoi polloi daring to brave their enlightened rule. Engagement in this morass of busybody jargon speaking professionals requires an effort precluding involvement by the amateur.

While local government is that government closest to us, the earnest ministrations of “professionals” and “experts” have mutated it into something we no longer know. Those we elect have learned to play upon our apathy and ignorance of the busybody jargon, leaving us with elected officials practiced in the sedative properties of “corporate speak” while pursuing outside agendas. I have only to point out my own State Representative, Lisa Cutter, profiled in my blog – “Who is Lisa Cutter?”

Virtuosos in the art of the half truth, they seem unable to control themselves. A tenured professor at Denver University, an institution with tuition and fees of $ 53,775/year, describes herself as an “entrepreneur”.  Indeed she is. She has built a “consultancy” to “educators” feeding upon her “research”.

Another describes herself as an “engineer at Hewlett-Packard for over 20 years, now running a small consulting business”.  It’s good to have a small businessperson with a STEM background on the school board, right? In reality, this “engineer” spent her career in Human Resources working to on-board new hires. Her consulting business consults in – drum roll please – Human Resources.

I forget myself in the throes of my cynicism. And I admit to certain amount of pique. As an “actual” entrepreneur and engineer, I am overly sensitive to those engaging in cultural appropriation. I am indeed angry at the artifice, but I also know that back in the day my own resume was known to elicit amusement. In addition, the achievements of my company cited in our corporate marketing materials could well evoke mirth and merriment. I do understand the need to posture and pose.

But I wonder how well these three women would represent the parents of Jefferson County’s students. One investigates the organization’s endorsing the “Jeffco Kids Slate”. An example is Colorado Working Families“upholding progressive values . . empowering a multiracial and feminist populist movement that advances racial, social and economic justice”.

Am I unfair in thinking their oversight of Jefferson County schools on the issues roiling Fox News and the Adorable media will be significantly at odds with most of their student’s parents? If the “Jeffco Kids Slate” believes in the need for progressive values in the oversight of the County’s schools, why don’t they say so? Obviously, Colorado Working Families and the Progressive Voter’s Guide believe they do.

Over 150 years ago, the farm boys of our southern states allowed themselves to be seduced by the language of rights such that they were blinded to the reality of their circumstance. Their seduction led to a great evil, but no one suffered more than they themselves. On Cemetery Ridge, at Antietam and a hundred other blood soaked fields, these young farm boys, their wives and children paid for their blindness.

Today, a similar situation prevails. The arbiter of our culture and politics, the suburban woman, aka the soccer mom, has been seduced and blinded to the reality of her circumstance by the language of rights, very like those Virginia farm boys nearly two centuries past.

But there are signs in the wind that our present day soccer moms will wake from their stupor, escaping the tragic denouement suffered by those foolish boys before them. A recall election in California over “remote learning”. The probable upset this Tuesday in Virginia of a sitting Governor who declared that “he would not allow parents to tell schools what to teach their children”. Progressive governments held captive by their dependence on the money, infrastructure and influence of teachers unions are being rocked by the revolt of the Mama Bears, outraged at circumstances in the schools.

Those whose career is the instruction of our children are due our admiration and respect for theirs is indeed a righteous calling. We all have memories of those who made a difference in our lives. But as I think about the situation of teachers in our children’s schools today, nothing fits my thoughts so well as the historian Alan Clark’s toast to the British infantrymen of the First World War, “They were lions led by donkeys”.

Perhaps if the Mama Bears rise up, local schools might once again become local schools. Perhaps one day, parents will be allowed a say in their children’s education.


3 Responses to “School Boards and Mama Bears”

  1. Russell George Kyncl says:

    Good work. Back in the 1990s I shared an office suite with the husband of one of the conservative board members at Jeffco. The Jeffco teachers’ union fought tooth and nail against her election, in part because she was…BAPTIST. There was a Jewish reporter for the Rocky Mountain News who called out this bigotry, saying he hadn’t seen a religious based political attack like that in Denver since the days of the KKK. It is one of two or three times I’ve seen the local media, what’s left of it, report a story accurately.

    • Robin says:

      Great observation about how our leaders are able to pursue outside agendas. Such a sad but appropriate quote “They were Lions led by donkeys”

  2. Jeffrey esbenshade says:

    Yes good teachers are very important. I tried to be one for 15 years in Jeffco.
    I had great feed back from students and teachers, they gave me good grades until
    they found out I voted for Trump.

    I would guess the “Jeffco Kid slate” get their money from JCEA union.I had 3 e mails telling me who to vote for from Jeffco employee e mail list which is against Colo law.There is no reform of public education until citizens take control. Miks Wilhite, Shelton, could have a chance for reform.

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