Voters Recall 3 Colo. Ed Board Members Who Pushed AP History Edits

November 4, 2015 6:48 a.m.

Voters in Jefferson County, Colorado, on Tuesday voted to oust three conservative members of the district’s school board following a push to recall the members over their stance on issues like teacher pay, school choice, and curriculum, the Denver Post reported.

The three board members — Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk — made the national news last year when Williams proposed controversial changes to the AP U.S. History curriculum. She wanted the make sure the class would “present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage” and not “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” Students in the county staged walk-outs protesting the changes, which the JeffCo board eventually dropped.

The conservative majority was also criticized for the board’s salary negotiations with teachers and policy on charter schools in the district.

The recall election in Jefferson County was seen as a litmus test for education policy in the state, where conservative board members have been elected in other districts like the neighboring Douglas County. As the parent-led group Jeffco United For Action secured enough signatures to place the recall on the November ballot, both pro-recall and conservative groups supporting the three board members geared up for an expensive proxy war.

The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity got involved in the race early with the intention of educating voters about the issues championed by the three endangered board members. The group did not explicitly back Witt, Williams and Newkirk, but Americans for Prosperity told Colorado Public Radio it committed less than $250,000 to ads backing the policies pushed by the three conservative board members. A Colorado libertarian group, the Independence Institute, contributed $10,000 to Kids Are First JeffCo, a group backing Witt, Williams, and Newkirk.

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The committees supporting the recall and the candidates running to replace Witt, Williams, and Newkirk outpaced the three conservative board members and anti-recall groups in fundraising, according to Chalkbeat Colorado. Spending in the race may have hit the million dollar mark, according to an estimate from Chalkbeat Colorado’s Bureau Chief Nic Garcia.

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