In an interview on KOA 850-AM Tuesday, gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez sharply criticized Jeffco students and teachers who've been protesting against a proposed curriculum review, saying the conflict is "really" about merit pay, not the curriculum.
Asked what message he has for "students, parents, teachers, and administrators in the Jefferson County school district," Beauprez said, "Get back to the task at hand, and that's instructing the kids."
"This [protest] supposedly was about curriculum," Beauprez told KOA, "But I think it's a long ways removed from curriculum. I think it's really just a manifestation of the ongoing battle between the school board and the teachers' union over pay, and in this case, merit pay. The curriculum is a very secondary issue."
In particular, Beauprez, who's running in a tight race against Gov. John Hickenlooper, implied that Jeffco students were being manipulated by teachers, calling the student actions a "teacher-encouraged protest."
Asked what role the governor should play in the dispute, Beauprez aligned himself with the Jeffco Schools' Superintendent, and he sounded (see below) as if he believes gubernatorial intervention would be justified if the conflict continues.
Beauprez said it's now "very close to that moment in time when the legitimate requests and needs of the parents and the students are not being met, and teachers are not meeting their contractual obligation to be in that classroom teaching kids."
The Colorado Indpendent's Tessa Cheek reported Tuesday that Jeffco parents were upset by simlar, but less strident, comments Beauprez made in a recent speech. Cheek reported:
"What we've got going on in JeffCo right now is a bit of a complicated situation," Beauprez said in a forum at Metro State college on Friday.
"I think the school board, an elected school board, they have a proxy from the citizens of Jefferson County to review that curriculum and to opine about that curriculum," he continued. "And the remedy -- if the citizens, the voters, decide that the school board has made a mistake -- the remedy comes pretty quickly, in the next election. That's the way I think it should work."
The comment hit a nerve for Shawna Fritzler. She's a registered Republican with a nine-year-old daughter who attends a JeffCo public school. She's also the president of her school's Parent Teacher Association and a citizen-chair of the JeffCo public school's planning and advisory council. She said she is frustrated to see a top-of-the-ticket politician weigh in during an election year without enough context.
"Bob Beauprez says to take it to the ballot box," she said. "You want me to wait three more years of my nine-year old's education? My daughter has to wait for an election? That's asinine."
On KNUS radio Thursday, conservative Dan Caplis said he believes "all of this theater is geared to the launch of a recall election" of the Jefferson County School Board.