Friday, September 26, 2014

The JeffCo School Board fiasco - Part I

Evergreen High School students protesting the JeffCo School Board.

If you are connected with my blog on social media at all, you might already know about what is happening with our local school district. We live in Lakewood, which is part of Jefferson County, Colorado. Since last week thousands of students from high schools throughout the county have walked out of class to protest, mainly, a school board member's proposed curriculum committee that would start out by making changes to AP History.

There is no way I can give this story justice with just one post. This will be a series. My first! Seriously, this issue is of huge importance to me and as I have closely followed this I have learned  a lot that I want to share with all of you.

To give you a little background, there are five school board members and last November three new "reformist" board members were voted in. They have a majority and have used that to promote their seemingly right-wing agenda. Now there are those who say that the previous board majority did the same with a left-wing agenda, yet somehow our school district became one of the top in the country.

With each side trading barbs, this is one thing I believe everyone can agree with: That JeffCo Public Schools has a reputation throughout the country as being one of the best school districts nationally.

We are also one of the largest, 85,542 students. And unlike some school districts in Colorado that are very wealthy, ours is a for sure mixture of class, ethnicity and race. We have a very high percentage of students, 34%, who qualify for free or reduced lunch yet we also have many students who come from upper middle class and up families. About 10% of K-12 students in Colorado attended a JeffCo school.

99.86% of our teachers are considered "highly qualified" according to federal standards.

We have the third best graduation rate of the nation's 50 largest school districts.

NOTE: A lot of this information comes from last year's annual report, done before this new "reformist" majority won the election.

Jefferson County is a purple county, with one third each of Democrats, Independents and Republicans.

In January our new school board majority took over and it didn't take long to notice changes.

But before I start with all of that, I want to plug voting. And voting in local elections. And paying attention to your local school board.

This is vital. Otherwise, your local school board could look like ours, if it already doesn't. As I write about what is going on in Jefferson County, please take this to heart. Please vote. Please speak out. I totally believe that if more folks voted in the school board election last year that these "reformists" would have had no chance of winning.

Once in power, the "reformist" majority quickly hired a lawyer. The board already has a lawyer yet these three wanted their own at $80,000 a year paid by the school district.

Then they decided to give $300,000 to a charter school and in the same meeting decided that they should not fund full-day kindergarten.

Charter schools are an issue. And $300,000 is a lot of money. I have read that there are some amazing charter schools, yet I first and foremost believe in support our public schools. I do not believe that all charter schools are as supportive of all students as public schools are. AN example would be me getting calls from teachers and students at two JeffCo schools that were having a tough time from those in power when wanting to create a Gay-Straight Alliance.

So I seriously should either leave the charter school debate to those most qualified or at least wait until I learn more before I write about them.

I think now is a good time to break. While I write my Part II, here is an article from today's Denver Post that will bring you more information on what is happening: student walk outs.

Thank you for reading. I would be delighted if you shared this post with friends.

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