Today, ballots drop across Colorado. If you’re a registered voter, you should receive yours next week. While you might feel inclined to sit this “off-year” election out, please don’t. This year is pivotal for communities everywhere. The biggest reason: School board races.
Now more than ever, Coloradans must unite to protect students, improve quality education and push back against overzealous and condescending school boards. Sadly, it’s clear school boards and education officials are tone deaf. They don’t really care — and they’re getting even more brazen as pushback grows.
Consider the saga of Denver Public Schools board member Tay Anderson. DPS recently released its findings regarding allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against Anderson. Their report found that, on multiple occasions, he aggressively solicited inappropriate relationships with minor children. Anderson persistently and at times abusively attempted to coerce children into an encounter.
The report “substantiated” that Anderson exchanged “flirtatious” messages with minors while a candidate for and then a member of the DPS board. For example, he “began to pursue (a 17-year-old) for dates,” primarily on Snapchat. The report said he asked her to go “stargazing or a sleepover at his place with him.” When the teen rejected him, he snapped back: “You’re such a pussy. Just come.”
On Sept. 17, Anderson’s colleagues voted to censure him. Board President Carrie Olson looked him in the eye and assured that, while Anderson needed to be taught a lesson, she didn’t think he should resign.
While Olson and her colleagues brushed the report aside and simply wagged their fingers at Anderson, DPS kids weren’t having it. On Sept. 20, over 1,000 students at five Denver high schools walked out and descended upon DPS headquarters in protest. It was a remarkable display of students advocating for themselves amidst a stark void in adult leadership.
Unfortunately, district officials didn’t listen and act. When Olson and Superintendent Alex Marrero met with a dozen students that day, Olson dodged responsibility. She insisted there was nothing they could do since Anderson is independently elected and pointed to a new board code of conduct in the works. “But what does that mean for Tay?” one student asked me later in exasperation.
Anderson’s colleagues could do more by forcefully, publicly and unanimously demanding his resignation. Yet they fecklessly rejected students’ cries about a serial predator staying on the board. Last month, I shared another story of a 10-year-old special-needs child long trapped at the first-grade level. Her mother sued DPS for additional educational services after attempting to get help, to no avail.
“Rather than working diligently with a single mom to develop a meaningful individualized education plan for her disabled daughter, DPS used bare-knuckle intimidation tactics,” I wrote. “They tried to sue a lawyer into withdrawing his client — a SPECIAL NEEDS child — but because (attorney Igor Raykin) wouldn’t submit, (DPS’s law firm) Semple Farrington ultimately dropped their case.”
DPS consistently and willfully disregards the literal cries of its own students and parents. Instead, they patronize students or sue the lawyer representing a disabled child. I’m sensing a pattern here.
Meanwhile, DPS, Douglas County Schools and other districts scornfully dismiss parents’ legitimate concerns about critical race theory or child mask mandates. DPS and DCSD, for example, have spent many thousands of dollars holding workshops and “equity trainings” that inject politically-charged CRT ideas into the educational culture.
In pursuit of excessive mask mandates, school districts ignore data on the significance of facial cues in children’s development. The science on masking 2-year-olds, though, is far from settled. Ask U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who tweeted about new studies purportedly supporting child masking and was promptly chastised by the scientists for misrepresenting their findings.
The constant sneering by school officials is outrageous. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent an open letter to President Joe Biden declaring that parents are engaging in “domestic terrorism.” As American Enterprise Institute’s Max Eden pointed out in Newsweek, none of the examples NSBA cites rise to the level of “ ‘attacks against school board members and educators’ over mask mandates and ‘physical threats’ due to ‘propaganda about critical race theory.’ ”
Yet NSBA called upon the Department of Justice to criminally prosecute protesting parents as “domestic terrorists.” Shockingly, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is looking into it!
Eden summarized it well: “Parents who oppose mask mandates or critical race theory might be shocked to hear that an allegedly non-partisan, non-ideological organization representing and supporting America’s locally elected school board members is lobbying the president of the United States to investigate and prosecute them as terrorists.”
Voters must always emphasize improving educational outcomes — especially in the wake of COVID lockdowns — and properly budgeting K-12 education. According to a new report from the Common Sense Institute, among the $13.22 billion in total revenue, only 35.6% of Colorado’s education spending goes to teacher salaries — a drop from 41% 10 years ago. Meanwhile, the share of administrative and support services skyrockets.
Most importantly, this is our chance to reset the balance of power to one which respects the major stakeholders school districts serve: students and parents. Their palpable frustrations must be effectively channeled to asking the tough questions, voting for real change and demanding basic respect.
Jimmy Sengenberger is host of “The Jimmy Sengenberger Show” on News/Talk 710 KNUS. He also hosts “Jimmy at the Crossroads,” a webshow and podcast in partnership with The Washington Examiner.