Colorado Protests Not Exactly Spontaneous

Last November, voters in Jefferson County, Colorado, elected a conservative majority for their school board. This didn’t sit well with those who lost, most prominently the Jefferson County Education Association. And though the two sides hammered out a collective bargaining agreement in May that was approved by 88 percent of the membership, the union fought with the board on a number of issues.

Perhaps it’s all a coincidence, but at the end of July, 48 NEA UniServ directors from 18 states were sent to Jefferson County to train local officers and activists in conducting home visits with members. Once the school year began, there was a flurry of union activity.

JCEA issued a vote of no confidence in school board president Ken Witt. Last week, two high schools had to cancel classes because of a teacher sick-out. JCEA denied responsibility for organizing it, but said it understood teachers’ “frustration.” The local heightened its presence and contributions in campaigns for the state legislature, and is encouraging student protests over the AP History curriculum.

The union’s plan is not only to continue its recent activities in Jefferson County, but to spread them to other districts in the state. The Colorado Education Association received a one-year NEA funding grant to hire an organizing specialist “to help bring educators together to fight back against the movement to privatize public education.” The job requires coordinating organizing campaigns in five unnamed Colorado local affiliates in three “metro area school districts.”

The organizing plan will incorporate “escalating activity” in “high intensity campaigns” to include “rallies, marches and other direct actions.”