Union Leaders Want to Have Their Tax Hike Cake and Sue Education Reforms, Too

Colorado’s education-related scoop of the month goes to the Gazette‘s Megan Schrader for uncovering some crucial intrigue and doublespeak behind the Amendment 66 statewide tax hike campaign. Teachers union leaders want to have their cake and eat it, too:

Five days before the deadline for legal challenges to be filed against one of Colorado’s key education reform bills, the state Education Board unanimously granted a five-month extension giving teachers and unions more time to file suit.

The decision – discussed behind closed doors in a special meeting on Aug. 26 – has stirred speculation about whether the move was politically motivated to avoid a contentious lawsuit just as voters are asked to approve a $1 billion tax increase for education in November.

Yes, the Colorado Education Association and its Denver affiliate want to be able to sue to stop the implementation of the state’s evaluation and tenure reform law. Passed in 2010, Senate Bill 191 is finally going into effect statewide as this school year unfolds. In particular, the unions don’t like a “mutual consent” provision that ends the practice of forcing principals to accept ineffective teachers into their schools.

But right now, their first priority is making sure taxpayers cough up a billion dollars a year in new income taxes through Amendment 66, the unfair and overpriced ballot initiative. Union contributions to the “Colorado Commits to Kids” pro-tax campaign so far have reached $450,000, or more than 10 percent of the funds raised.

As word gets out that teachers union leaders now can reserve their right to sue beyond the election, though, it will undercut the message that the billion dollars is needed to fund reforms like, well, SB 191. The Gazette story tells us about one key business group. When Colorado Concern learned about the anti-reform political intrigue, they moved from neutral on Amendment 66 to actively opposing the tax hike proposal.

(And yeah, I also wanted to bring attention to the story because one of my Education Policy Center friends got to offer a key quote.)

Questions for union leaders and other supporters of Amendment 66 should just be beginning. Coloradans won’t get to see the true anti-reform colors before having to decide on a billion-dollar income tax hike. But now that light has been shed on the scheme, more of them may wake up and opt to put kids first through real reform instead.