The Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) denounced party activity in November’s school-board election but an analysis shows that the union has given exclusively to Democratic candidates in partisan races over the last five years.
From 2009 to 2013, the JCEA small-donor committee spent about $214,000 on campaign-related activities including contributions to key Democrats such as John Hickenlooper, Evie Hudak, Cary Kennedy, Andy Kerr, Tracy Kraft-Tharp, John Morse, Brittany Pettersen, Dianne Primavera, Sue Schaefer and Max Tyler.
The union committee has also donated to candidates in the non-partisan Jeffco school board elections but not to Republican candidates running in partisan contests, according to online campaign-finance reports filed with the Colorado Secretary of State.
The union contributed $12,500 to the Colorado Democratic Party from 2010 to 2012, and $2,500 to the House Majority Project, a Democratic fundraising group, in 2012.
JCEA president Ami Prichard said in November she was “disheartened by efforts to turn the race into a partisan battle,” according to the Denver Post.
“It’s really sad that people are using the school board to make a political statement,” Prichard told the Post.
Candidates for school board seats don’t run as party nominees, but the November school board race saw three Republican-endorsed candidates capture a majority on the five-member Jeffco board by defeating three Democrat-endorsed candidates.
The JCEA small-donor committee spent $82,727 on the 2013 election including a combined $18,500 in direct donations to the three Democrat-endorsed candidates.
Even though the union’s favored candidates lost, the JCEA has continued to wage a public relations campaign against the pro-reform Jeffco school board majority, most recently taking its fight into the public schools.
On its Facebook page, the JCEA is posting photos of teachers wearing blue in solidarity with the union both inside and outside school buildings. Several group photos include signs with the Twitter hashtag #standup4kids, where supporters of the union are posting anti- school board messages.
“The majority of our school board is not standing up for kids so we are wearing blue every Thursday!” said an April 17 Twitter post.
“The @JeffcoSchoolsCo majority needs2listen 2the community. Stop hiding your alt motives,” said another April 16 post.
The social-media blitz coincides with the tense contract negotiations between board and union representatives. Union negotiators walked out of the talks April 7 and declared an impasse. The next step may be to bring in a mediator, “which per the contract calls for mediation and fact finding which are held in closed session,” according to Jeffco Students First.
“It is disappointing the union does not seem to really want increased transparency. We hope the JCEA comes back to the bargaining table and honors the commitment they made to open negotiations”, Sheila Atwell, executive director of Jeffco Students First said in an April 9 statement.
The negotiations were being held in public for what may be the first time. Union officials are pushing for an extension of the contract that expires in August 2015. Contracts are typically negotiated every four years.
“It has become clear to the JCEA bargaining team that this year’s bargaining process is disrespecting a 45-year tradition that has made us great,” Stephie Rossi, JCEA bargaining chair, said in Chalkbeat. “The board has not empowered their team to bring truth to the table and we cannot reach a mutually agreed upon outcome without the truth.”
Relations between the board and union got off to a rocky start when former Superintendent Cindy Stevenson, a JCEA favorite, announced she would resign the day after the Nov. 5 election. She left in February, four months before her contract was set to expire.