16 November 2013

Wrap Up: the Milwaukee School Choice Conference

To be frank, I didn't anticipate much coming from attending the Western Conservative Summit this summer.  Of course, there were a few interesting speakers and I got to see many friends (which, to be fair, I get to do often anyways), but those events don't do much besides give fleeting enjoyment.  I did, however, meet a gal from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, and we got to chatting about school board races.  Not long after that, I got an email from another gal at the Franklin Center.  After chatting back and forth for a bit, she asked if I would be interested in attending a conference on school choice in Milwaukee--and, bonus, it turns out my husband can come with as an attendee as well.  It's always fascinating to me how seemingly insignificant events line up perfectly for something much, much bigger.

Matt has spent a lot of time writing about school choice in Colorado from the perspective of the courts.  I spent some time as the Executive Director of the Colorado HEARTH Fund in 2007 and 2008, promoting all school choice (particularly homeschooling).  School choice has always been a subject very near and dear to this homeschooled girls' heart.

The conference wrapped up last Saturday, and I'm still processing all the things I learned.  First, I really must say that the caliber of folks in attendance was top-notch (I particularly enjoyed meeting Alice and Maggie) and it was very cool to be a part of that group.

Of particular note for me were the tours of Hope Christian School and Bruce-Guadalupe Community School--the former catering to a largely African-American community, and the later a largely Hispanic community.  I was so impressed when talking to the coach at Hope who had some great insight into the incredible work they are doing in one of the poorest cities in the nation with an astronomically high incarceration rate for young African American males (1 in 8).  I was also very intrigued to discover that Bruce-Guadalupe is a monolingual school--teaching is in English so that students who come in only speaking Spanish leave bilingual, and to learn that it often helps the parents who only speak Spanish to learn English as well.  There is some truly amazing work going on in those two schools, where kids actually come first.  What a concept!  

My favorite session was a tie between Derrell Bradford's lunch talk (which you can watch here, filmed at another event) and Bob Bowden and Kyle Olson's panel discussion on using emotion and investigative journalism to advance school choice.

Even better than the tours and the sessions was dinner on Saturday night with a few fellow conference attendees and Bob Bowdon.  If you don't know who Bob Bowdon is, take a minute to get familiar and read the link above.  The Onion afficianados may find him familiar as well.  Ah, recognize him now?  Yes.  He is, of most note, the director of The Cartel--which is a must see if you haven't yet.  Clearly, it was a fantastic, fun dinner with the best bacon I've ever eaten.

The networking is always the best part of these events.  Hearing about what is going on in other states and spreading the word about the great results we had on 5 November in Colorado's election made it so worthwhile.  

In case you missed it, reform candidates had overwhelming success in Colorado, sweeping in Douglas County, Jefferson County, Denver County and taking many spots in unlikely places like Adams County.  The Thompson Valley School Board, predominantly in Larimer County, increased their reform member numbers--although one seat is still in limbo (and looks good for the reformers).

Another perk of attending was anticipating the publication of More than Scores from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.  What a phenomenal read.  

I'm looking forward to National School Choice Week from 26 January-1 February (yes, I have my yellow scarf!).  In the mean time, watch for more school choice posts as I process everything I learned.  Since we're getting back into serious campaign season (not that this last election wasn't serious), look for more posts on all things campaign-related, including an updated Caucus Training page and the 2014 edition of the RIGHT Republicans Initiative come Assembly and Primary time.  This blog can't be all snark and commentary on corruption in the Colorado GOP, right?

09 November 2013

Opinion: Of enemy lists and State Party Chairs

It appears Chairman Call is preparing for Christmas and conflating himself with an evil Santa--making his enemy list and checking it twice.

In reports I've had from three Colorado Executive Committee Members, Ryan Call said at their September meeting that my husband, myself, Rich and Laurie Bratten, Ken Clark and Jason Worley (of Grassroots Radio), and Debbie Healy are the "six (sic) most detrimental people to the Republican Party in Colorado." (yes, if you can actually count, there are seven names there)

In fact, I spoke on Grassroots Radio back in September about this.  You can listen at the link.

Well, now I've seen it in writing, in the official minutes of the Executive Committee Meeting (email me if you want to see the entirety of the minutes, there is a lot more in there than just this, a fascinating read).
"Chairman Call said that folks like Jason Worley, Ken Clark, the Bratten's, Debbie Healy and the Arnold's are no friends of this party."
Not quite as... powerful, perhaps, as what was reported to me from three independent sources, but nonetheless it appears Ryan Call is making his enemy list (and he very well may have talked about us being detrimental--at the very least, apparently we aren't friends...).

Oh, but wait.  These aren't the official minutes.  It appears that yesterday, at their November executive committee meeting that EDITED minutes were submitted by the Chairman and his toady, the Executive Director, and put forth as the "real" minutes (you can email me for those as well, to contrast with what was submitted).  

Then, the Secretary was (according to reports I've received from several sources again) instructed to only write minutes in bullet points going forward by a vote of the Executive Committee.  I reached out to Lana for comments, but she declined.

Bottom line is this: something hinky... very hinky... is going on.  What does Ryan want hidden?  Of what is Ryan afraid?

Because the Republican Party can't get their act together, and because Ryan Call continues to declare all-out war on the Colorado Conservative, Liberty Groups, Tea Party, and Libertarian (big "L" and small "l" alike), I have a hard time seeing electoral successes in our future.  Any conservative victories in Colorado in 2014 will be IN SPITE OF the Colorado GOP, and certainly not because of.

08 November 2013

Winners and Losers in Colorado's 2013 Election and a Look Ahead

Now that the dust has settled a little bit, I wanted to just quickly review what happened in the 2013 election in Colorado.  I'm talking about the November elections, not the recalls (that's a whole 'nother beast).  I am hip-deep in finishing up my book (which, if you haven't pre-ordered yet, you can here) and attending a School Choice Conference put on by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but I wanted to give a very brief summary from my perspective of what happened and what that may mean for 2014.


  • Kids
  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • Taxpayers
  • School choice advocates


  • Unions
  • Michael Bloomberg
  • John Hickenlooper
  • Political operatives


Douglas County, Jefferson County, Denver Public Schools, and several school districts in Adams, Larimer, and Weld counties in particular had great success with reform candidates and slates, which bodes well for improving education across the state.  Notice where some of these changes occurred--Denver, Jefferson, and Adams county, where you have majority Democrats or have been trending Democrat in the past several elections county-wide.  School choice and reform is not a partisan issue.

Coloradoans voted down a nearly $1 billion/year tax increase by a nearly 2-1 margin.

In a bizarre twist of strangeness that only Colorado could concoct, by nearly the same margin as one tax increase was voted down, a tax was passed on marijuana.  In Colorado, apparently it is "tax for thee but not for me."

Sadly, in some cases, reform candidates succeeded in spite of, rather than because of, some of the same old (bad) political operatives.  As long as we continue to have these folks around, we will have to fight that much harder to actually succeed in elections.

Looking ahead:

It is way too early to make predictions for 2014.  To say Hickenlooper is on the defensive now after two losses (the recall elections in September and now Amendment 66--a third might be the flub on the execution of Nathan Dunlap) would be accurate, but whether that will hold true a whole YEAR from now is yet to be seen.  Unfortunately, voters have really short memories, and if Hickenlooper can pull it together this year coupled with a long, likely nasty Republican Primary for Governor, and that could potentially spell success for him in his election.  Remember, since 2004, no Republican has won statewide office after a nasty primary.  It may be more a factor of "us" and less a referendum on Hickenlooper, unfortunately.

What conservatives and liberty lovers must do is capitalize on our success: clearly pro-gun, anti-tax, and pro-education reform messages are winning messages!

The legislative session should be very interesting.  Election years often bring a tamer legislative agenda, and after this year's cocky liberal ram-rodding, it will be very fascinating to watch what happens next.