We in the Save Our Students group were concerned to learn that three of the school board candidates received an unprecedented $15,000 from Ed McVaney, a Front Range billionaire who in his retirement years has taken to building expensive private religious schools.
McVaney’s donations make up 83 percent of their campaign cash. Our concern turned to alarm, however, when we learned that McVaney has supported an entire slate of school board candidates at least once before — in 2011 he successfully funded a takeover of the Douglas County School Board by a slate of political extremists.
Those extremists, once elected, created a controversial voucher program that stripped tax dollars from the public school system and sent them to private schools. Here’s where it’s important to follow the money: The largest single recipient of that taxpayer money was McVaney’s private religious school. It looks as if he bought the board and its members created a system that funneled taxpayer money back to his school.
Vouchers and “choice” sound great in the abstract, but in the future that McVaney is trying to buy they are only available to the wealthy. For example, tuition at McVaney’s school this year is $15,400, plus classroom fees of up to $250 for each class taken.
By contrast, the vouchers from Douglas County amounted to less than $5,000, meaning that only the wealthy could afford to take advantage of the vouchers, because they still had to pay the remaining tuition of $10,000-$12,000 per child.
In the end, the voucher system that was touted as bringing choice to public schools amounted to nothing more than a tax rebate for the wealthy, allowing them to pull their tax money out of the public school system to help send their kids to an expensive private school that ordinary people still couldn’t afford.
But it gets worse. The voucher program took the most advantaged kids from the public schools — the least costly kids to educate – as well as the full per-pupil funding for each of those students. The public schools were left with the more expensive students to educate and with reduced funding with which to do it.
Public education has been the foundation of our merit-driven culture in the U.S for years. Unlike in some other countries, in the U.S. it hasn’t mattered whether your parents were rich, famous or powerful – as a child in America you could get a quality education and your success and failure as an adult depended largely on your willingness to work hard. The approach being pushed by McVaney and possibly supported by the candidates he has bankrolled will turn that American system on its head by giving the children of the wealthy all the advantages and leaving the rest of our society’s children to make due with the scraps.
Fortunately though, Douglas County’s problems have not come to District 51 … yet. The candidates who will be getting our votes — Greg Mikolai, John Williams and Tom Parrish – have raised 89 percent of their campaign donations locally and aren’t beholden to McVaney’s agenda. They are committed to fighting for our public schools and for our kids.
For the sake of all our children, we at Save our Schools hope that you will take the time to get informed and that you will exercise your right to vote in this election.