Take Action ›
Don’t miss out on the kind of education, legislative and political news you can only get with EdVotes. Click here ›
by Brian Washington
Colorado educators are using a new documentary to engage the community about how hidden corporate interests — with deep pockets— are trying to influence elections, take over public education, and turn a profit on the backs of students.
Since its release last month, “Education, Inc.” (see movie trailer below) has been shown at house parties and large venues all over the state, including Jefferson County, where a screening at Arvada West High School attracted about 50 people.
“It (the movie) is about outside money that is taking over and creating a dynamic that is driving our public schools,” said Beth Low, an instructional coach who organized the screening at Arvada, which is also where she works.
It helps people really understand this is money coming from corporations and billionaires who are motivated by the path of greed rather than what’s in the best interest of the students.
The movie hits close to home in Jefferson County, where the community is trying to recall three radical school board members who now make up the panel’s majority. These are the same far-right board members who made national headlines last fall after trying to politicize the Advanced Placement (AP) History curriculum, which led to thousands of students walking out of class in protest.
They won their seats in 2013 with lots of support and financial help from Americans for Prosperity, an organization bankrolled by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, also known as the Koch brothers.
The Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity, as well as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), another extremist group that survives on Koch money, all support an agenda that includes profit-driven education reforms that don’t work, including publicly funded charter schools run by private corporations that are unaccountable to children, parents, and taxpayers.
“They (the board majority) have opened at least three new charters and continue to funnel money in that direction rather than making sure education funding is secure and that we have quality teachers in our classrooms,” said Low.
The movie screenings, which are always followed by a panel or group discussion, are providing a nice springboard for educators to speak with those in attendance about the importance of the upcoming recall elections. The goal is to enlist the public’s help in fighting back against a school board agenda that lacks transparency, accountability, and respect and that has had a negative effect on students, educators and schools.
“It’s about being informed — understanding who the candidates are,” said Low. “Don’t just take them at face value. Try to interact and engage them so that people can say, ‘I know what I voted for and I know who I voted for when these elections come around in November.’ ”
Meanwhile, the Arvada screening that took place last month saw those in attendance buy 23 copies of the movie to share with people they know.
“We have people buying copies to send across the country to their relatives,” said Low, who believes what is happening in Jefferson County and other parts of Colorado is part of a coordinated, national effort by corporate interests to undermine public education while earning a profit.
“We have to connect the dots for people. Let them know that this is bigger than just Colorado.”