I don’t know about you, but I am fed up with all the trumped-up attacks on Douglas County public schools by the AFL-CIO, ACLU and the cottage industry of pro-union attack groups that have sprouted up across our community. When you read all the press accounts of it, you can’t help but wonder: Do Douglas County Schools belong to us, or to liberal special-interest groups like the ACLU and the AFL-CIO?
Dougco schools are the national leader in public school innovation. While too many other school systems accept the all-too-mediocre status quo, we don’t. Not here.
Our schools are the best in the nation. And it isn’t by accident. Our schools are world-class because of great teachers, great students, great parents and bold reform initiatives undertaken by our school board and superintendent.
Unfortunately, liberal groups like the AFL-CIO and ACLU have fought reform here in Douglas County over the last several years at every step of the way. The ACLU sued to stop our school choice program. And the local affiliate of the AFL-CIO has harassed and harangued and badgered and bullied this district every time the school district turns on the lights.
They call lots of press conferences; they file lots of frivolous lawsuits and record requests; the union operatives do just about everything except promote good schools in Douglas County. I’m fed up.
People often ask, why is the union always red-in-the-face mad at the Dougco school board and administration? And the answer is pretty simple — follow the money. Sure, the local education union hates bold reforms like performance pay, charters and scholarships. But the real reason the union is so viscerally opposed to the direction of this district is because its leaders did something that no other district in Colorado has — Dougco turned off the union money spigot.
For 15 years, this school district had a sweetheart handshake deal with the union, under which classroom dollars were used to pay union salaries and travel expenses. Millions of dollars, in all, wasted on union fleecing. Imagine that: Classroom dollars that could have been used to reduce class size or pay for school supplies, they went to union salaries and union trips instead. The local union, of course, was also skimming millions of dollars from teachers’ salaries and dumping the bulk of it into Democratic political campaigns.
Well, last year the Douglas County school board and administration said no more. Not again. Dougco money will stay in teachers’ pockets, not campaign coffers; our classroom dollars will be spent in classrooms, not on big-dollar union salaries.
This, of course, has the union hopping mad. And they are spreading all sorts of untrue nonsense. Why? They are bullying until they get their money back.
The latest bogus charge of these liberal attack groups — that teachers are fleeing school districts en masse. Recently, a small handful of union teachers did in fact stage a “walkout”; the small group staged a protest to announce that were leaving, most to accept union jobs in neighboring districts.
But even with this small, union-orchestrated walkout, Douglas County Schools has a teacher retention rate that beats the statewide average, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
Union-friendly districts like Denver and Aspen schools have a much higher teacher turnover rate than Dougco. Douglas County’s teacher retention rate is roughly the same as Cherry Creek Schools.
And speaking of stubborn facts, there is one more fact that needs to be highlighted for all the union cronies busy trash-talking our school system — and that is that Douglas County is one of the best school districts in America. That is the big truth.
Since our new school board and superintendent have taken over, our dropout rate has plummeted. This year, our ACT scores beat the statewide average by a full two points. Our graduation rate beats the national average by 10 points, and beats Colorado’s graduation rate by 12 points. One national analysis showed that Dougco is the top-ranked large school district in the state of Colorado — better than Denver, better than Boulder, better than Littleton, Jefferson County and even Cherry Creek.
Those are the facts. And we want the state of Colorado to know. What we have in the Douglas County School District is special — that’s the truth that no big union lie can obscure.
Randy Reed, a local business owner, runs the Douglas County Education Alliance, an organization promoting public school innovation in Douglas County.