Bold Colorado Small-Town School Reform Angers Teachers’ Unions

In the scenic mountain town of Woodland Park, Colorado, nestled on Pikes Peak’s north slope, a local conservative school board’s robust attempt to reform public education has attracted national attention and caused quite a stir among teachers’ unions. With less than 30% of students scoring at grade level in math and just over 45% capable of reading at grade level, the dire need for change in the district is clear.

The district’s conservative school board took up the mantle about 18 months ago, initiating bold and innovative reforms aimed at academic recovery. Their efforts were met with a counterattack from teachers’ unions, who see their authority at risk.

In the face of these reforms, local and national teachers’ unions have embarked on a coordinated, intensive campaign against the school board. As the local union awaits a “crisis” designation from the Colorado Education Association (CEA) — an organization that recently denounced capitalism — other unions are rallying to their aid.

Legacy corporate media outlets like NBC News have joined the fray, framing the school board as negligent and impulsive in implementing its reforms. This narrative is, however, riddled with factual inaccuracies and misleading portrayals, masking the reality of the board’s committed drive to improve education standards and accountability.

Here is a sample of local reporting of the controversy by the liberal corporate media:

The board’s decision to adopt the American Birthright Standards, a social studies curriculum rooted in traditional teaching methods, is misrepresented by NBC as discouraging civic engagement. Yet the board aims to foster critical thinking about government, its authority, limitations, and individual rights. The goal is to stimulate understanding and thought, not to stifle student voices or discourage political participation.

Another point of controversy is the district’s first charter school, Merit Academy. Despite accusations of rushing the process, the school board held multiple meetings over five months to vet the proposal before its approval. And the result? A 16% increase in district enrollment bucking Colorado’s downward trend.

Additionally, the board made the difficult decision to reject a $1.2 million grant focused on social-emotional learning (SEL), viewed by some as imposing on parental rights. In doing so, the board emphasized respecting parental input in their children’s education.

This issue is not about the educational concerns raised by the unions. Instead, it is about their fear of losing control and influence over a school board that is dedicated to fulfilling the academic-centered agenda they were elected to accomplish.

The root of the unions’ resistance is a fear of competition and exposure to failure, as we can see from their opposition to the Merit Academy, which has shown itself to be a model of success.
The developments in Woodland Park should serve as a lesson for other reform-minded school boards. If they stand their ground, they too can prioritize academic achievement, address learning loss, and steer clear of ideological agendas, despite the pressure from unions and the media. The education of our children should be our top priority.