Former President George W. Bush, whose administration once made a big deal about its diplomatic engagement with Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, won’t talk about the recent unfortunate turn of events for the strongman. And don’t try to get Bush started on any of those pesky questions about jobs and the economy that his administration ran into the ground. He’s not talking.
But if you want to talk about how the schools in Denver, Colorado, should be run, Bush’s has got plenty to say.
“I’m out of politics… but I still have a great passion about educational excellence,” Bush announced when he showed up in Denver last Thursday.
But the scheduling of Bush’s visit to the city’s “Get Smart Schools” program couldn’t have been more political. Indeed, advocates for public education in what has become the most intense school board election in the country are bluntly suggesting that Bush’s visit was “politically timed.”
Appearing in Colorado’s largest city barely ten days before the most hotly contested school board elections in the the community’s history, Bush talked up an education agenda being advanced by so-called school “reformers,” who have been backed by wealthy oil barons and national conservative groups that want to see Denver experiment with school charter, school choice and privatization schemes. And he did so with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock at his side.
Hancock, a Democrat, has waded into the Denver School Board competition, endorsing candidates favored by the out-of-town special interests and suggesting that if things didn’t go they way he may reverse his previous position and press for mayoral control of Denver schools.
Emily Sirota, a Denver school board candidate who has campaigned on behalf of maintaining strong public schools—and assuring that those schools are run by elected representatives of the people, rather than outside interests or powerful politicians—has been countering Hancock. “I agree with Mayor Hancock that the current school board is overly divisive and dysfunctional. In fact, that’s exactly why I’m running for school board—to finally put an end to the bickering and refocus our schools on the needs of our kids,” says Sirota. “However, the mayor only added to the current divisiveness and dysfunction when he needlessly inserted himself into the school board election. Additionally, he’s now making matters even worse with his suggestion that he may be open to trying to disband the elected school board unless his handpicked slate of candidates is successful in buying the upcoming election. Voters aren’t interested in that kind of extortion. That’s not a way to forge consensus and refocus DPS on the needs of our kids, which should be our top priority.”