R.I.P., Senator Al Meiklejohn

I pause from my regularly scheduled juvenile opining to acknowledge the passing of someone who gave many years of service to the state of Colorado — including many on behalf of public education. He and I wouldn’t have agreed on every issue, but there’s no doubt he was independent in thought, well-informed in his views, and passionate in his work.

I’m talking about former Arvada state senator Al Meiklejohn, who died Monday at age 86 and will be put to final rest today. As reported in this week’s Denver Post obituary, Meiklejohn served six years on the Jefferson County Board of Education and “constantly pushed for public-school reform and better salaries for teachers.” For his service he has a Jeffco elementary school named after him.

You know Senator Meiklejohn was a man of influence and stature when in the week of his death he has received such high praise from two very different sides of the education spectrum. First, the teachers union in their CEA Capitol Connection blog declared him “a champion for public education,” highlighting a 1996 feature to him in their own magazine on the occasion of his retirement from the state legislature.

Meanwhile, homeschool parental rights advocate Treon Goossen wrote very kind and moving words about Meiklejohn in her weekly email update:

I speak often of Sen. Meiklejohn, who was my friend. I have been thinking of all of the times he stood for us against a very strong public school majority. He was part of that majority and yet he fought strongly for our right to educate our children at home, free from the oversight of school districts. I remember the many conversations with him when Rory and I worked to get the law passed and in subsequent sessions. He helped stop threats to tighten regulations and worked with us to improve the law. I have never seen anyone fight so valiantly for a freedom that he would never choose. I remember his kindness to a mom, pregnant with her 5th child, and helping her to understand a complicated process and giving her the courage to fight on when the odds were so against us. To me, he was one of those treasures that come into your life, rare and delightful. Every parent who home schools in this state, and even in other states where our law was used as a model, should honor the memory of this wonderful man.

Indeed, Senator Meiklejohn played a very important role in the passage of Colorado’s homeschool law, as explained in depth by my Education Policy Center friend Marya DeGrow in the 2008 Issue Paper Colorado’s Homeschool Law Turns Twenty: The Battle Should Never Be Forgotten (PDF).

R.I.P., Al Meiklejohn, friend of public education AND supporter of educational freedom.