Ideology should never trump pragmatism and money should never buy elections. In a perfect world, this simple notion would be America's political creed.
Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world, as evidenced by our national discussion on education these days. Indeed, ideology and money are what seem to be dominating the debate, and specifically, right here in one of the most important education elections in recent Colorado history: the school board elections in Denver, our state's biggest city.
As the former chairman of the House Education Committee, I have been closely watching this crucial campaign unfold, and I have been increasingly dismayed by those who have tried to shroud an anti-public-education agenda under the veneer of the term "reform." Additionally, I have been disgusted to see that in the Denver School Board elections, this toxic agenda has been underwritten by record-shattering sums of money -- much of it delivered in $10,000 and $25,000 checks from wealthy corporate executives who don't even live in the school district itself.
Of course, like so many others, I am for REAL education reforms that have been proven to strengthen our traditional public schools, empower teachers and involve the community in school decisions -- in fact, that's what my legislative work on the Education Committee was all about. But thanks to the mudslinging campaign in Denver, we are seeing the term "reform" hijacked, with it now being distorted to mean everything from defunding neighborhood schools to demonizing teachers to siphoning money out of public education entirely.
The good news is that one candidate, Emily Sirota, is managing to rise above all of this and run an honest pro-public-education campaign in District 1. Though she has been the target of vicious personal attacks on her and her family, and though she is being grossly outspent by huge amounts of corporate money, she has continued to fight the good fight for education on behalf of our kids.
The mother of an 11-month-old son (and a soon-to-be DPS student!), Emily is the only candidate in the school board races who has outlined a detailed, pragmatic plan to strengthen public education for the long haul. This is not surprising -- after all, Emily is also the only candidate in the race with a long career of community service and public policy experience at every level education policy is made. In short, she is a person who understands which REAL positive education reforms work and which do not work -- and she understands that reform shouldn't be a slogan that simply justifies using huge sums of money to jam a destructive anti-public-school ideology down the throats of parents, teachers and kids.
I'm proud to endorse Emily in this race, and encourage everyone reading this to vote for her. Her campaign may not have the most money, direct mail ads or expensive billboards, but she has the right kind of experience, skills and commitment for the job. With our education system in crisis, we need to be electing more independent people like her -- people who are directed not by ideology or Big Money, but by what's best for our kids.
Find out about more about Emily's vision to bring accountability, community, and transparency to Denver Public Schools at www.sirotaforschools.com/issues
Michael Merrifield served as the Chairman of the Colorado House Education Committee from 2004 to 2010.