Colorado's Governor-elect Jared Polis recently announced his transition team appointees in seven focus areas. The committees are intended to hire staff and set the tone for priorities in the Polis administration.
Among Polis' picks for the education committee are Mike Johnston, Jen Walmer, and Bob Schaffer - three individuals directly involved with attacks on public education.
Mike Johnston unsuccessfully challenged Polis for the Democratic Party's gubernatorial nominee earlier this year, but he is most widely known for authoring Senate Bill 191 in 2011, which linked teacher evaluations to standardized test scores and added a series of unfunded mandates to local districts. His legislation exacerbated Colorado's teacher shortage and created increased administrative needs, siphoning funds out of the state's classrooms
Jen Walmer, Colorado Director of Democrats for Education Reform, has helped direct millions of dollars in dark money to influence Denver Board of Education elections and ensure the district continues to expand its already alarming levels of privatization. Notably, Democrats of Education Reform (DFER) made national headlines after Colorado's Democratic Party requested that DFER stop calling themselves “Democrats” at their state assembly.
Walmer previously worked as Denver Public Schools Chief of Staff under past Superintendent Tom Boasberg. When she left DPS to work for DFER, former state legislator Terrance Carroll said, “She was responsible for brokering agreements between key stakeholders on SB-191. Without her, we would have had an even tougher time passing this major piece of legislation.” DFER also employed its influence to help Polis get elected, questioning whether Walmer's placement on the committee is a reward for the organization's financial support.
Polis also named Bob Schaffer, a former Republican member of Congress with a track record of supporting vouchers and parochial schools. Schaffer also served on the Colorado State Board of Education, alongide Polis. On a related note, Polis himself expressed support of vouchers in 2003.
Polis' picks for the education transition team might not be surprising considering he has founded two charter schools chains, but the website set up for his transition team is asking for feedback and volunteers. So, if you are dissatisfied with his picks or want to replace any of these individuals with someone who actually believes in public schools, feel free to let the Governor-elect know.