On August 26, a glowing Denver Post feature introduced Kerrie Dallman to thousands of readers as the new president of one of the state's strongest and most one-sided lobbying arms: the Colorado Education Association. Dallman told reporter Kevin Simpson that the union has got to get over its obstructionist image and to take ownership of reform.
“We've got to put kids front and center,” she said. But how exactly does that include heading to another school district to join in a protest planned today in Castle Rock?
Three days after the Post puff piece was published (try saying that five times fast), a letter went out under the CEA president's name to the union rank and file:
As you may know, our Association’s values of collectivism, unity, solidarity, equity, transparency, and collaboration are being attacked throughout Colorado by school board members who are politically driven to diminish the role of unions. In the past few months, this has surfaced in Douglas County where teachers and classified employees are represented by the Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT), a Colorado AFT local.
We believe it is only a matter of time that other school boards will begin to display the anti-union behavior of the Douglas County School Board.
Another 280 words or so later, in the last phrase of the letter, we finally read about “the students we teach.” Nothing like putting the children out there “front and center” to clear up any confusion about adult priorities — like fighting to continue automatic deductions for the union political machine and to keep unaccountable union officials on the tax-funded payroll.
In the spirit of transparency, which so many of us greatly esteem, it is instructive to see which values drive CEA leaders into action: collectivism, solidarity, and equity. Some of those who place greater value on individualism, merit and freedom also are planning to show up later today and support the Board's bold reform plans. Should make for some interesting video.
The protest idea did originate locally in Dougco, but CEA (which has never represented teachers there) found a compelling reason to join in. Whether the American Federation of Teachers was afraid of a repeat low turnout, or the National Education Association state affiliate might be looking for a new source to help make up for a significant 2-year loss in membership.
Or maybe teachers union leaders are genuinely frightened that other school boards might follow Dougco's lead. Think of all the poor children trapped in Colorado's 138 non-union school districts… What can be done for them? Must keep the students “front and center.”
Or is it, “Must send a shot across the bow of school boards in other major districts”? Yes, major. Who remembers the mass protest that took place in 2011 after the Park County Re-2 school board decertified the small local union, an actual CEA/NEA affiliate? That's right, there wasn't one.
While Dallman's letter cites September 4 as the date of the Dougco board meeting and planned protest, the meeting was moved to accommodate an unexpected tragic event. The board meeting is scheduled for 5:00 today, with the protest designated for a half-hour before.
Apparently, there is some plan among the pro-collectivist crowd to wear Halloween masks. How fitting. When it comes to the clash of rhetoric versus priorities, the trick is on students while union officials fight to keep the treat for themselves.