DENVER (AP) – A high-profile political battle in the Jefferson County School District could reach a conclusion Tuesday as voters decide whether to recall three conservative board members who changed the way teachers are paid and briefly considered reviewing a U.S. history curriculum to promote patriotism.

Students in Jefferson County School District, the second-largest in the state, protested the curriculum idea by walking out of school last year. The district claimed teachers staged sick-outs.

The vote Tuesday on whether to recall Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk has attracted a huge influx of cash from inside Jefferson County and from outside groups with an interest in what education reforms should look like.

Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk (credit: CBS)

Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk (credit: CBS)

Those facing recall and the people who want them out of office each have the backing of heavy hitters who have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars. Recall supporters include teacher unions, while Witt, Williams, and Newkirk are backed by the conservative powerhouse Americans For Prosperity.

The three cruised to victory in 2013, and their arrival immediately drew the scorn of liberal groups and some parents in the district. They were the new majority on the five-member board and began implementing the reforms they campaigned on, including giving more money to charter schools and tying teacher pay increases to performance rather than seniority.

“Now of course, there is resistance to that kind of change,” said Witt, the board president. “There are groups and organizations that stand to lose power and money when you actually put the focus back on students, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s worth that fight.”

The discord garnered national attention when the board majority considered reviewing new Advanced Placement U.S. history curriculum to emphasize patriotism. Ultimately, the board didn’t do anything with the class, an elective course that has been criticized by the Republican National Committee and the Texas State Board of Education.

The course gives greater attention to the history of North America and its native people before colonization and their clashes with Europeans.

Board members insisted the outcry had more to do with union displeasure over the new teacher pay system.

Parents and educators formed a group called Jeffco United for Action and collected signatures to force the recall election. They cited the fracas over the curriculum and teacher pay. The group also accused the conservative members of meeting privately before scheduled meetings – a charge the three have denied.

Wendy McCord, a parent who helped organize the recall effort, said the election is about accountability.

“Unfortunately as a school board there is no one else,” she said. “No one has jurisdiction over school boards. They oversee themselves.”

Money spent and disclosed by groups and individuals opposing the recalls total $186,399, including a $70,116 ad buy from Americans For Prosperity, according to figures and documents compiled by Colorado Ethics Watch, an open government group.

Individuals and groups supporting the recall, including teacher unions, have spent $277,076, according to Ethics Watch.

The ballot includes possible replacement candidates if the recall is successful.

– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer

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