Recently, we came across some articles that pointed to the unintended consequences of what may have been (at the time) best of intentions but have helped promote the agenda to privatize America’s schools:

Ronald Reagan’s push to abolish the Department of Education in 1980

“The landmark report from Reagan’s presidency, “A Nation at Risk”…published in 1983…”

and the Clinton administration’s encouragement for private investment in community projects.

Unintended consequences – they can come back and haunt you.

We raise this point, because we see some of that happening now and want to make sure none of us becomes complacent to what’s happening in our state. Yes, we see lots of posts about DeVos, and certainly, given the opportunity, she will remove the “public” from public education.   But if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on right here in Colorado, and in Jeffco, where we can have the greatest impact, it will happen before you know it, right before our very eyes.

We posted this article regarding HB1375 and the impacts that the new law will not have, even though they were intended.

“More transparency and accountability on the part of charters” was what we were told. Compliance has been an issue and isn’t going to be consistent because there are not volunteers doing the research on every website. Also, since this legislation has no teeth and it seems pretty clear the ability to really, truly ensure compliance will be a slow process, and left up to… who?; what’s the purpose? We did the work and found the issues in Jeffco and it opened some eyes. Thanks to those charters that did step up and correct the issues. A note for a few who defended the noncompliance “because it’s summer” – this was in place BEFORE school was out for the summer and putting the links on the website isn’t difficult work. We hope some of you will go and actually look at the waiver content links. Does the content make sense to you as a parent? If you were looking at a school, would you bother reading the waiver information and is the language and content accessible to you personally? Do you understand it? (That’s one of the biggest problems in public education, not just charters – making information accessible for all parents – and a topic to be discussed further separately.)

Coincidentally, a recent publication (and covered by Chalkbeat) discusses the idea that charters are already too restricted and advocates for loosening the restrictions such as teacher certification. What is the possibility we see legislation in 2018 carried by some of the same sponsors (legislators) who supported HB1375 to do just that?

“The book, a collection of essays edited by the Center for Education Reform’s Jeanne Allen and Cara Candal and the Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden…   (See WFF donations/grants for 2012 & 2014 below)

“…recommendations that include expanding the number and type of charter authorizers, ensuring charters are not bound by teacher certification rules, and reducing charter school regulations.”…/has-the-charter-school-movement…/

Enter Bob Schaffer in this May 11, 2017 opinion piece advocating for the elimination of teacher licensure.

“Bob Schaffer is principal at Liberty Common, a charter high school and junior high school in Fort Collins. His column publishes monthly.”

The players behind the effort to privatize our schools are all the usual suspects, but we think it’s not a bad idea to reconnect some of those dots to remind us all why we worked so hard to protect our public schools in 2014-15, and why we can’t let our guard down now.

We must give credit to Jeff Bryant (, who writes for Salon, Alternet, and Education Opportunity Network, and others, and who brought national attention to Jeffco during the summer of 2015.

Bryant has done a lot of research and written many articles on the reform movement to privatize public schools. He wrote a couple of articles in 2016 that puts a lot of this together for us – his work focused primarily on the Walton’s (of Walmart) Family Foundation (WFF).

“The Walton foundation has funded charter schools since 1997 and says its start-up grants to 2,110 schools account for about a quarter of all charter schools nationally.”

The Walton Family Foundation (WFF) established by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton has announced it’s intention “to spend $1 billion over the next five years … backing new charter schools and helping programs already up and running.”

“With our 2020 K-12 strategic plan, we are making an unprecedented commitment to expanding educational opportunity. We will focus our grant making on cities across the country — including … Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, New York, Oakland, San Antonio and Washington, D.C. Each city is both full of need and ready for change.

We will also support state-level efforts in California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Texas — as well as Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.”

WFF has funded some key players here in Colorado in the past leading to some huge impacts in our world of public education. (to see the complete list of recipients of WFF dollars see the links under the list)

In 2012 WFF grants/donations of note:

  • Americans for Prosperity Foundation $325,000
  • Center for Education Reform $ 809,209
  • Colorado League of Charter Schools $245,000
  • Colorado Succeeds $100,000
  • Douglas County School District $300,000
  • Education Reform Now, Inc. $500,000
  • Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, Inc. $465,000
  • Independence Institute $40,000
  • National Public Radio $1,400,000
  • New Schools Venture Fund  $ 1,100,000
  • New Schools Venture Fund $ 612,500
  • Stand for Children Leadership Center $343,402
  • Downtown Denver Expeditionary School $250,000
  • KIPP Foundation $8,374,000
  • Denver Public Schools $218,750
  • Denver Scholarship Foundation $116,192
  • Teach for America (National) $11,445,000

In 2014 WFF grants/donations of note:

  • Center for Education Reform $ 200,000
  • Colorado League of Charter Schools $350,000
  • Colorado Succeeds $650,000
  • Education Reform Now, Inc. $2,426,500
  • Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, Inc $ 624,500
  • Heritage Foundation $ 150,000
  • Independence Institute$125,000
  • KIPP Foundation $300,000
  • NewSchools Venture Fund NSVF $ 2,068,014
  • NewSchools Venture Fund  $ 537,500
  • Stand for Children Leadership Center $150,000
  • Teach for America (National) $2,430,000
  • KIPP Foundation $ 8,454,000
  • Denver Scholarship Foundation $ 67,837
  • Teach for America (National) $14,510,000

In Jeffco, we had our first real experience with some of the key players in the Education Reform movement during the 2013 board of education elections, when WNW won 3 seats, taking majority control of our board; but things were brewing before then (locally, statewide and nationally). DougCo was already embroiled in it.  It was 2012-2013 when most of us noticed things really started to get hot in Jeffco and Colorado.

Back in October 2012, Project Censored posted this article entitled Education Reform a Trojan Horse for Privatization:

October 10, 2012

“Public education is the target of a well-coordinated, well-funded campaign to privatize as many schools as possible, particularly in cities. This campaign claims it wants great teachers in every classroom, but its rhetoric demoralizes teachers, reduces the status of the education profession, and champions standardized tests that perpetuate social inequality. The driving logic for such reform is profits.”

Sound familiar? Consider the current teacher shortage crisis in Colorado and other states.

We’ve been hearing for years (especially since 2012) how terrible the teacher’s union is. Our teachers have been called lazy, and thugs, and in it for the money. SB 191 was part of that plan, too.

About SB191 – Michael Johnston (running for Governor but a Democrat in the State House at the time) carried the bill, but as you read through these publications, you will see a long list of collaborators who benefited from WFF dollars (per the list posted above from 2012 and 2014).

In this publication titled, Creating a Winning Legislative Campaign, The Colorado Story for DFER, Scott Laband (the Legislative Director for Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston during the 2009-10 legislative session) begins with:

“Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) led the coalition of advocacy organizations that made this work possible, including Stand for Children, Colorado Succeeds, and many others.”Laband also refers to stakeholder groups such as Teach for America. All were recipients of dollars from WFF in 2012 and 2014.

  • Stand for Children (2012/14 combined) $593,402
  • Colorado Succeeds (2012/14 combined) $ 750,000
  • Teach for America ((2012/14 combined) $25,955,000

In his April 2017 editorial Van Schoales (A+ Colorado) writes:

“Back in May 2010, hundreds of the nation’s education foundation, policy, and practice elites were gathered for the NewSchools Venture Fund meeting in Washington to celebrate and learn from the most recent education reform policy victories in my home state of Colorado and across the country.

The opening speeches highlighted the recent passage of Colorado Senate Bill 10-191…”

NewSchools Venture Funds was a recipient of WFF dollars in 2012 and 2014 (combined 2012/14 = $4,318,014).

Waltons are only one piece of the puzzle, though they are all interconnected. Articles have been circulating social media recently about the Koch’s strategy plans in Colorado Springs.

By the way, you may have noted, in 2012, when things were starting to brew in Colorado, AFP (Americans for Prosperity) was also a recipient of WFF money. You will recall (pardon the pun) AFP and the Kochs played a role in school board elections (Jeffco, DougCo, Thompson, especially) in 2013.

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council –

“ALEC brings together elected leaders and corporate lobbyists to create and vote on model legislation—behind closed doors and without public input. These bills are then introduced into state legislatures across the country, and result in looser environmental regulations, stricter voter identification rules, weaker labor unions, and more.”

Here are the “Key Points” from the ALEC website Education section:

  • Legislators should create or expand the type(s) of school choice program that best suits their state: vouchers, tax credit scholarships, homeschooling, and education savings accounts.
  • Legislators should improve or pass charter school laws, striking a balance between innovation, autonomy, and accountability.
  • Legislators and regulatory agencies should be wary of attempts to re-regulate innovative and/or private educational options, which could expose them to the death of the thousand bureaucratic cuts and sacrifice the freedoms that allow them to succeed.
  • Institutions of higher education should be transparent about what outcomes students can expect and how much money they will have to spend or borrow.
  • Citizens, legislators, and regulators should separate the concept of public education from the monopolistic delivery system and embrace 21st-century methods of connecting students with learning experiences.

There’s even an ALEC version of Colorado’s SB191 –

The Great Teachers and Leaders Act

Type: Model Policy   Date Finalized: September 19, 2010   Date Amended: May 6, 2016

“…reforms the practice of tenure, known as nonprobationary status in some states. Teachers can earn tenure after 3 years of sufficient student academic growth; tenure is revocable following 2 consecutive years of insufficient growth. The council for educator effectiveness will define teacher effectiveness and come up with parameters for an evaluation system that requires 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on student achievement using multiple measures. The Act requires principals to be evaluated annually with 50 percent of the evaluation based on student achievement and their ability to develop teachers in their buildings and increase their effectiveness. “

But wait a minute, didn’t we just say above that DFER was taking credit for a lot of the effort to pass SB191, sponsored by Michael Johnston?   Sort of makes you scratch your head and wonder how DFER and ALEC are connected.


Those of us who have been advocating for public education for a while (at the local, state, and national level) already know a lot of this – Although it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.   It’s a realization of how big the organizations are, how much money is involved, and how long they’ve been strategically planning and implementing their reform. All of these players listed here are and will be working hard, dedicating lots of money to Vouchers, Education Savings Accounts (ESA), and other tools for privatizing public education under the guise of “choice”.

What it means for us is we need to be diligent, stay engaged and not let our guard down for a moment. Know your source of information. Don’t hesitate to sit down with your legislator (State House and State Senate, as well as our Congressional members) and let them know where you stand and what will drive your support via votes and campaign donations.

This goes for Board of Education seats, too.   Remember, the DougCo school board majority, elected in 2009, have attempted to implement school vouchers (in the form of “scholarships”). It’s still in court, utilizing taxpayer dollars and taking them away from students in schools.

Jeffco does not want to go the route DougCo has gone – we’ve already been too close.