Plenty of parents are dissatisfied with Colorado’s public schools. Survey results released last month by pollster Magellan Strategies found more Coloradans disapprove than approve of the job their local school district is doing educating students.
That’s no surprise. It has been a contentious couple of years for our schools. COVID’s closure of classrooms saw achievement plummet amid stay-at-home “remote” learning. Shuttering schools also may have played a big role in an alarming surge in youth mental health crises. The rise of a radical fringe within Colorado’s Democratic Party, which currently dominates statewide politics, has helped usher in sharply divisive education dogma such as critical race theory. And then there were the mask policies imposed as classrooms reopened. Parents in some districts felt masking did more harm than good and battled their school boards over the policy. It was a flash point that helped flip the local school board majority last fall in Douglas County.
The good news is parents can have a say over their kids’ education — and not only through local school board elections. It’s through elections for the Colorado State Board of Education.
While the legislature typically turns a deaf ear to parental concerns — instead favoring special interests in the education bureaucracy and teacher unions — the State Board of Education quietly develops and implements needed change. Although the board, which governs the state Department of Education, could use more authority in some areas, it nevertheless can serve as a check and balance on the legislature.
And as education news service Chalkbeat Colorado makes clear in a report in The Gazette this week, a lot could be riding on some State Board of Education races getting little attention in the upcoming election. The political balance of the board — it now has a 4-3 Democratic majority — could tip. The influential but low-key elected body has acquired two new seats in the wake of congressional redistricting.
The two new seats stem from the creation of a new, 8th Congressional District for Colorado, reaching from the northern Denver metro area all the way north to Greeley. One of the new board members will represent the district itself while the other will be elected statewide, preserving an odd number of board seats to avert deadlocked votes.
The 8th is considered a tossup between Democrats and Republicans. We already have endorsed Peggy Propst in the June 28 GOP primary; she previously represented the 5th Congressional District on the board and would bring extensive experience. The race for the board’s new statewide seat might be a close call, as well, amid the current political climate and its ominous implications for ruling Democrats in Washington.
As noted in Chalkbeat’s coverage, Republicans already on the board, as well as those running for its contested seats, aim to leverage parental concerns that turned up in polling. That means championing parents’ rights and school choice along with a focus on core academic skills. Republicans also oppose the new pedagogy obsessed with race, gender and sexuality.
Whichever party winds up in control of the board, it can continue to provide a hedge against the neglect of the state’s most at-risk students. Consider the board’s needed reorganization of the Adams 14 school district in Commerce City. The board also has the power to step in when local school districts unreasonably try to thwart the creation of popular charter schools.
Parents unhappy with their local school board should remember there’s another board they can turn to. And this year, it’s up for grabs.