A local race with national consequences
A slate of anti-voucher candidates won a resounding victory Tuesday in a Colorado school board election that drew national attention because of its likely effect on a closely watched school-choice program. The four candidates who campaigned together under the CommUnity Matters banner beat pro-voucher candidates with nearly 60 percent of the vote in Douglas County.
The new board members expected to discontinue a legal fight for the district’s controversial voucher program, adopted in 2011. The plan allowed parents to use tax money to send students to several pre-approved private schools in the area. The Colorado Supreme Court declared the program unconstitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court this year asked the state’s justices to reconsider the case in light of its ruling in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, which said denying state aid to churches was discriminatory. School choice advocates believed a win in the Douglas County case could have opened the door for voucher and educational savings account programs across the country.
Newly elected board member Anthony Graziano called the Douglas County voucher program a “distraction to the district,” adding that he and his new colleagues would refocus attention on local issues.
National groups poured money into the Colorado race hoping to affect the voucher case outcome. The American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions, spent $600,000 to support the winning candidates. —L.J.
New approach to PE
Goodbye, dodgeball. Hello, cycling, hiking, and rock climbing. Schools across the country are rethinking physical education, emphasizing athletic skills students will be able to use well past the elementary years. While picking teams and competitive contests once formed the foundation of gym class, PE teachers now focus on teaching more cooperative and individual sports lessons. In upstate New York, students get to explore activities like kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, dance, self-defense, archery, and in-line skating. One school in Washington state takes its students fly-fishing. Other schools focus fitness classes on offerings students might see at a local gym for adults, such as yoga, strength training, and swimming. With the youth obesity rate hovering at around 17 percent, schools are trying everything they can to keep kids moving and burning calories. —L.J.
I’m amazed that students still want to pledge fraternities and sororities given the seemingly constant stream of stories revealing the degrading things they must do to become part of the “cool club.” Hazing rituals, evidently a prerequisite to participate in Greek life, often include dangerous amounts of alcohol consumption, force-feeding designed to make students vomit, and humiliating situations crafted to debase pledges. Even a growing list of fatalities hasn’t seemed to stem the flow of willing recruits. But colleges, facing outrage and lawsuits from bereaved parents, are starting to reach their tolerance limit. This week, Florida State University indefinitely suspended all fraternities and sororities after a freshman pledge died during a recruitment event. Two other universities, Penn State and Louisiana State, also suspended their Greek groups this year after alcohol-related deaths. —L.J.