An explanation: I found my earlier website to be quite cumbersome. Therefore I have a new site hosted by WordPress. It is kaplanforkids.wordpress.com. It will be much easier for readers to subscribe to the blog and post comments (which I hope you will do) and much easier to unsubscribe from the blog (which I hope you do NOT do). I apologize for the confusion and the redundancy of posting my original blog again. It just makes more sense in the long term. Now on to Blog 2 – I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet.
I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet
Rock and roll afficiandos, know the next line to the classic Carole King hit is “I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down.” Depending on which side of the education divide you find yourself, the first two lines of this song can easily serve as a symbol for the current public education battle. Here in Colorado it was clearly on display this past Tuesday when Dr. Val Flores, a 40+ year educator soundly defeated Taggart Hansen, a two year participant in Teach for America and a lawyer by profession. Supporters of Dr. Flores’ primary victory for Colorado’s First Congressional State Board of Election Democratic nomination are identifying with the first line. Supporters of Mr. Hansen might be feeling a little like Henny-Penny in the children’s fairy tale Chicken Little as portrayed in the second line.
So, how on earth or in the sky did this very unexpected result come about?
This Democratic contest pitted the usual education sides against one another: grassroots and unions v. local reformers and out of state independent expenditure committees. Val Flores spent roughly $20,000 on her campaign between the “heavy” union support and grassroot contributions. Tagg Hansen spent roughly $135,000, $35,000 from himself, fundraisers and loans and $100,000 from two usual “reform” organizations, Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform and their independent expenditure committees. Flores spent less than a dollar a vote ($0.89). Hansen spent $8.64 per vote. The totals were
Flores 22,412 58.93%
Hansen 15,621 41.07%
Val Flores mailed two pieces of literature to a targeted group of Democrats; Taggart Hansen had between 10 and 12 pieces of mail sent on his behalf from his campaign and from the independent expenditure committees. Flores’ campaign had three robo calls: the first was an introductory call from herself, the second from DPS Board Member Arturo Jimenez, the third from former State Senator and Education Committee Chair Evie Hudak. To the best of my knowledge, Hansen’s campaign made four calls, one from School Board President Happy Haynes on behalf of herself and the Mayor of Denver, the second by the Mayor himself, and the final two by an unnamed woman who cited Mr. Hansen’s education credentials as well as listing the education reformers in Denver who were supporting him. Mr. Hansen never called to introduce himself to the voters.
The truth is we will probably never know all the things that played a role in this election, but some things that may have contributed to this lopsided victory include Dr. Flores’ top-line ballot placement, low voter turnout, a short election cycle, and basic campaign management. Retiring State Board Member Elaine Gantz Berman who was not only a supporter of Hansen’s but also was instrumental in recruiting him to run, was quoted as saying, “People didn’t pay any attention to the endorsements,” but there are those in Colorado who believe some endorsements may have actually hurt Hansen. And, of course, there is always the possibility and hope that people are beginning to see the failures of this “reform” agenda.
In this Chalkbeat article Stand for Children Executive Director Sonja Semion said, “Denver voters support more innovative ideas for our public education system” [than this election has shown]. Democrats for Education Reform – CO state director, Jennifer Walmer, was quoted as saying “We were clearly disappointed by the results. [but] I don’t think it’s an indictment on reform.” Let me assure you, if the results had been reversed, these organizations would be shouting from the rooftops that this election was a clear validation of education “reform.”
From my rooftop I am observing that just maybe real Democrats like teachers and don’t think they are responsible for nor able to cure society’s ills within the school day. Just maybe real Democrats like unions. Just maybe real Democrats like neighborhood schools and do not like choice. Just maybe real Democrats are tired of the churn and chaos “reform” has brought to public education. Just maybe real Democrats do not like corporate privatization. And just maybe when “reformers” from Stand and DFER give their analyses, what they are really saying is that in order for education “reform” to continue winning education-related elections, they need Republican support as well. Now that is probably the truth, and that alone should be enough to make real Democrats think twice about supporting the so-called “reform.”
After 10 years of this “reform” just maybe Dr. Val Flores’ message resonated with the voters. When I asked her why she thought she won by such a large margin, she said, “People were waiting to hear the message I was delivering. People do not want their neighborhood public schools closed. People do not want public education to be privatized.” I am feeling a little movement by the earth as I write this. Hope you are, too.