Campaign "Silly Season" Starts to Emerge in Colorado's Largest School Districts

For reasons I don’t even have time to get into, big people often call the weeks leading up to an election the “silly season.” Most think of that in terms of presidential or Congressional races. Not so much when school board elections come around, and here in Colorado that’s in the fall of odd-numbered years.

Lest you think school board elections aren’t a big deal, I have to remind you that local Colorado boards have a great deal of constitutional prerogatives and power. They just have to be ready and willing to use it. Besides, just ask a current University of Colorado Regent, a former state treasurer, and a former lieutenant governor who are all vying for positions this year. Two of them are running in three of the state’s largest districts, where the “silly season” has reached full bloom.

The former lieutenant governor is Barbara O’Brien, competing for an at-large seat on the Denver Public Schools (DPS) board. As the Denver Post reports, she just happens to be the target of an interesting attack from her opponent. Michael Kiley has heavily criticized O’Brien for her support of a short-lived statewide school voucher plan 10 years ago:

“Barbara O’Brien is too extreme for Denver Public Schools,” Kiley said in a news release Thursday. “Unlike my opponent, I will never support vouchers.”

Sadly, O’Brien responded to the Post that she no longer supports expanding private education options for students. Politics in DPS, I suppose. Never mind that the gold-standard research overwhelmingly shows the benefits of voucher-like programs.

What a great segue to talk about the only school district in America that has made private education options available to families: Douglas County. Thanks to reporting by the Colorado Observer, one of the anti-reform challengers there has resorted to outrageous audio manipulation to attack her opponent Meghann Silverthorn.

When a candidate for an unpaid local elected position shamelessly resorts to this kind of tactic, it truly raises more questions than answers. One can only hope that local media outlets would shed some more light on the situation for local residents.

Denver and Dougco have set one sort of tone. But the good news is that I haven’t yet seen the so-called “silly season” reach the state’s largest school district: Jefferson County. Maybe the absurd attacks will surface later. Meanwhile, all six candidates for three open seats showed up last week at a League of Charter Schools forum to clearly present different views on important issues.

So why am I here waiting for the silly shoe to drop in Jeffco? Apparently, being perpetually 5 years old doesn’t also mean being perpetually naive. I’ll still pull for the good policies and practices that put kids first, and wait longingly for the “silly season” to pass.