The teacher unions in Colorado, primarily the Colorado Education Association (CEA), have had an amazingly terrible track record in Colorado politics recently, picking one electoral loser after another and throwing good money after bad on failed policy priorities. With last week's school board elections, the crushing defeat of Prop 103 and the coming implementation of a teacher rating system from 2010's SB 191, the trend is continuing unabated.
The drift towards ineffectiveness began during last year's legislative session with the passage of SB 191 (PDF), a bill designed to reform teacher tenure and bring some measure of accountability into Colorado public schools. Despite being viciously opposed by the perennial Democrat campaign bank-rollers, the CEA, and in a government where Democrats controlled the House, Senate and Governorship, the bill passed with Republican support and some gutsy Democrats like state Senator Michael Johnston (D-Denver).
The bill included the development of a teacher rating system, which the AP reports is poised to be signed off on by the state Board of Education today. The rating system is four-tiered — highly effective, effective, partially effective and ineffective — that will be used to grade teachers and principals. Those receiving the rating of "ineffective" for two straight years lose tenure. Despite the CEA finding horrifying the idea of teachers being judged on their merit and not just the amount of time they've stuck around, the reform is becoming real.
Some Democrats literally cried their eyes out on the floor when the bill passed, but we're jumping for joy at the idea of the CEA's massive public policy loss.
The CEA has dumped untold sums into political races over the years, and are an important piece of CODA's funding structure. They've smeared many a good conservative with lies and misleading mailers. It's nice to finally see them fall, and fall hard.
What began with SB 191 has continued through almost every election this year, from Denver Mayor to Prop 103. After supporting Chris Romer for Denver Mayor and throwing money into a 527 attacking Michael Hancock, the CEA has become persona non grata in Mayor Hancock's office. They also threw six figure sums at the Denver school board races, only to see the pro-reform majority remain intact, and at least $75,000 towards Prop 103, which failed in all but the three most left-wing counties.
While unions might have won a big victory in Ohio yesterday with the overturning of the law limiting collective bargaining for public employees, the teachers unions in Colorado have known nothing but defeat in recent times.
The general movement of Colorado's electorate and political establishment is towards reform, with the state increasingly seen as a leader nationally in the education reform fight.
This has potentially great implications for Colorado conservatives. More Democrats running for office on education reform platforms means less races that the CEA will invest heavily in smearing conservatives and buying politicians to protect the unacceptable education status quo.
Then Democrats will actually have to fight elections on their own, and as Prop 103 demonstrated, the liberal political establishment is just not where Colorado's electorate stands. That sounds like progress to us.