Wherever there is a bipartisan consensus for charter schools, the Koch brothers see the state as ripe for expanding vouchers. Now they are targeting Colorado, where they have developed a strategic plan for the state.
Leading Democrats, such as wealthy Congressman Jared Polis and former State Senator Michael Johnston, have led the charge for charters and schiool choice (both have announced they are running for the Democratic nomination for governor.) Polis has opened two charter schools and fiercely supports them as a member of the House Education Committee. Johnston, former TFA, introduced legislation in 2011 to make student test scores count for 50% of teachers’ evaluation. The law has been an abject failure, although Johnston claimed it would guarantee that Colorado had great teachers, great principals, great schools.
DFER and Stand for Children have been active in Colorado, laying the groundwork for the Koch brothers.
And now they arrive with a plan to defund public schools and call it “opportunity.”
“COLORADO SPRINGS — In a nondescript office building on the north side of this conservative enclave, more than a dozen volunteers spent hours making calls to educate voters about a new initiative that will allow parents to use taxpayer dollars to send children to private schools.
“At the same time, just miles down the road, the political network behind the effort gathered hundreds of its wealthiest donors at a posh mountainside resort to raise money to support the campaign to remake the education system.
“The confluence of policy and politics epitomized how the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch flex their organization’s muscle and spread an ideological agenda in states across the nation.
“The value of this network cannot be overstated,” said Stacy Hock, a Koch donor and conservative education advocate in Texas. “The ability to stand on the shoulders of the giant that is this network to make yourself more impactful and strategic changes the game.”
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The phone calls to middle-of-the-road voters and presentation to donors in Colorado last week were part of the Koch network’s six-figure campaign to promote school choice and education savings accounts, or ESAs.
“The effort in Colorado involves the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Libre Initiative, a group focused on Hispanic community outreach. Together the organizations are making calls and sending flyers to voters this summer, two of which promote ESAs as a way to “give families the freedom to select schools, classes and services that fit the unique needs of their kids….
“The Koch network considers Colorado an attractive state for its message because public charter schools are a bipartisan cause. In the 2017 session, lawmakers equalized funding for charter schools with district schools.
“EdChoice, a conservative education advocacy organization aligned with the Kochs, commissioned a survey in 2015 to introduce Colorado to the ESA issue, finding strong support when cast in favorable terms.”
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