Between the over twelve million dollars being spent on the Amendment 66 campaign and the national interest in the Douglas County School Board race, education issues are dominating the 2013 election season.
One might think that these issues will be resolved, one way or the other, once the ballots are counted on Tuesday night. However, the kind of money and energy involved in this election season proves that this is simply round one in the fight, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s election.
Some ballot issues can make big headlines and then, like a firework, fizzle and fade away, only to become a footnote in election history books. But some issues come with the political firepower, and usually the requisite funding and fervor, to stick around for awhile.
Education reform in Colorado is definitely the latter.
There is not a combination of results on Tuesday that puts this issue to bed.
If Amendment 66 passes and a new non-reform board is elected is Douglas County, it will only bolster the opposition to re-tool and focus on the 2014 election.
Also, since a key part of the reforms that will be enacted within the School Finance Act may come under fire from a lawsuit in 2014, reform supporters will be focused on that potential lawsuit. Depending on how that suit goes, attempts to amend the School Finance Act, maybe even by ballot issue, may come into play.
But even a negative result for reform opponents on Tuesday will not mean that the battle is over.
If Amendment 66 fails, we will see the proposal again. No issue amasses over $12 million dollars and simply fades away. It took the TABOR amendment many times to finally be passed by voters and Am. 66 supporters are certainly as persistent as the TABOR supporters were more than twenty years ago.
One reason that the fight does not go away if Amendment 66 loses is that the political landscape still favors Democrats and they still own the House, Senate and Governor’s seat. Even after a loss, the advantage will still tilt toward Dems. Strategists will know that it will be best to use this advantage while it lasts.
In Douglas County, the battle over reform is far from over. If the slate that supports current reforms wins, the battles over particular reform policies, including the current litigation over the voucher program, will continue. The fight will only change venues from school board races to the actual policies.
If the non-reform slate of candidates is victorious, the fight also does not end. Douglas County is still a bastion for the Republican Party and ideological support for the reforms that have been in place will not go away with new school board members.
The long story short is this. The 2013 election will go down in history for resolving exactly nothing and kicking off the latest episode of battles over public education in Colorado. Even though the races made national headlines and attracted millions of dollars of fundraising, it will only serve as the opening act to the main event, with the next act due exactly twelve months from now.
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– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.