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You Can Help Colorado Kids

Bethany Drosendahl
Guest Blogger

Here in Colorado, we have a constitutional educational structure that promotes local control. Unfortunately, we also have a 400-person bureaucracy called Colorado Department of Education (CDE.) Over 6 billion dollars of taxpayer money is flowing through CDE. In theory, CDE has a fiduciary responsibility to students, parents, and taxpayers. However, all too often, the inner workings of CDE have been co-opted by special interest groups who do not share the same responsibilities.

The CDE reports to the State Board of Education which is comprised of a seven member elected board. The head of Colorado’s CDE is called the Commissioner of Education. In July of this year, CDE Commissioner of Education, Robert Hammond, retired. An interim Commissioner, Elliott Asp, was appointed by the State Board in August. Now the State Board and CDE have retained the search firm of Ray and Associates to help find and vet a new Commissioner of Education for Colorado. CDE has set up two avenues to obtain public input.

First, you can provide input through an online survey. If you go to http://www.cde.state.co.us/ there is a link for ‘Complete the Commissioner Search Survey’, which will be open for input until Monday, September 14.  Second, beginning Thursday, September 10, there will be a series of Public Input Meetings. Please see list of dates, times, and locations below. If you cannot attend in person, there is an opportunity to attend by phone.

So what are we looking for in a new Commissioner? Our new Colorado Commissioner of Education must take a strong stand to eliminate the connection between the Colorado Department of Education and special interest groups, as well as begin to eliminate unnecessary and redundant functions in the educational process at the state level.

The Colorado State Board of Education, via the CDE, has a fiduciary responsibility to oversee the implementation of the laws written by the General Assembly, and to provide guidance to the 178 local school districts that represent approximately 800,000 students and their families. In the past, CDE has employed foundation-funded, ideologically and politically driven organizations to advise and implement policies that bypass the local control process and do not show fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers and voters.

One example of this was highlighted in the December 18, 2014, Colorado Joint Budget Committee Hearing. Legislators questioned the ethics and legality of having privately funded, non-profit entities, acting as government employees in our Department of Education. These “employees on loan” come from the Gates Foundation funded Colorado Education Initiative, (or better known as Colorado Legacy Foundation, before changing their name to CEI). There were 5 such CEI employees in our Colorado Department of Education overseeing the implementation of the new Common Core aligned standards and assessments.

We must demand a Colorado Commissioner of Education who is committed to:

  • Minimizing state level bureaucratic control and oversight
  • Restoring local control
  •  Promoting transparency in CDE finances, transactions, contracts, lobbying, and business partnerships
  •  Taking a strong stand to eliminate the connection between the Colorado Department of Education and special interest money and its influence on education policy. An example is CDE’s relationship with the Colorado Education Initiative as noted above

One avenue that the new Commissioner can take to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness would be to call for a complete and thorough audit of our Colorado Department of Education.

Our ability to participate in our own government process is one of the greatest aspects of America, but we only have rights if we exercise them. Please don’t miss this opportunity to be heard. Our kids deserve no less. Our kids deserved to have great education and great future. Teachers should take care of children in their classrooms and use common core sheets to teach start teaching them advanced.

List of Public Meetings and Call-In Participation. RSVP Requested: RSVP to Jennifer Lee,  Temp_Lee_J@cde.state.co.us  or 303-866-6817

  • Grand Junction – Location TBD Thursday, September 10 8:15 – 9:15
  • Glenwood Springs – Roaring Fork SD, RM TBD Thursday, September 10 11:45 – 12:45
  • Denver – 201 E. Colfax Ave., 4th Floor Atrium Thursday, September 10 9:45 – 10:45
  • Denver – 201 E. Colfax Ave., State Board RM 101 Thursday, September 10 6:15 – 8:45
  • Denver – 6000 E. Evans Building #2 Suite 100 Friday, September 11 10:30 – 11:30
  • By Phone ** Thursday, September 10 4:45 – 5:45

**Call-in number provided when attendance is confirmed.

Bethany Drosendahl
Parent Advocate
youropengate@gmail.com