Archive for August, 2014

New Hampshire Delivers Good News for School Choice

Posted by on Aug 28 2014 | education, Video

Our latest IITV episode:

Education Policy Center director Pam Benigno talks with Ben DeGrow about good news for educational freedom. The New Hampshire Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling limiting families’ choices by saying they could only use tax credit scholarships to help pay for a certain kind of private school. Another favorable judicial ruling in one of the 14 states with scholarship tax credit programs gives momentum to support for a similar program that could expand choice in Colorado.

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IITV #2: Ballot Measure for Open School Board Meetings

Posted by on Aug 20 2014 | education, Transparency

In this second edition of Independence Institute Television, I sit down with host Justin Longo to discuss Proposition 104 – the new Independence Institute ballot measure that seeks to make school board meetings transparent and open to the public. Why shouldn’t these meetings, where school boards and unions flesh out their contracts, be open to the public? After all, even the teachers themselves who must live under the rules of the contract can’t see what’s going on behind closed doors.

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Introducing… Independence Institute Television (IITV)

Posted by on Aug 18 2014 | U.S. Constitution, Video

You may or may not have known that the Independence Institute has had a podcast for years called Independent Voices (iVoices for short). Over the past 6 or so years we have amassed almost 700 podcasts ranging from transportation to education to gun rights to women’s issues. You can visit our iVoices webpage here for a full archive.

However it is now 2014 and if you hadn’t noticed yet, videos on the Internet are kind of a big deal. (Just peruse your Facebook feed for 5 seconds and you’ll come across 10 cat videos and 3 guys hitting themselves in the junk with a Wiffle ball bat).

In order to get with the times, we built a video cast studio in our building and will start doing video casts rather than podcasts – meaning you’ll be forced to both hear AND see us. That’s great news when one of our ladies is in the studio. That’s bad news when it’s yours truly in high definition.

We figured we’d announce the launching of IITV with none other than our leading constitutional scholar Rob Natelson. In this first edition of IITV, Rob introduces himself, his work, and discusses his approach to researching the Founding era.

Please check back to our YouTube channel to catch the latest from the Independence Institute… in full high definition video!

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We’re on the ballot!

Posted by on Aug 14 2014 | education, Transparency

Open school board meetings are one step closer to being the law.

Yesterday I was informed by the Colorado Secretary of State that we submitted more than 110% of the valid signatures required to place our question on this fall’s ballot.

Colorado voters will get the chance to do what the State Legislature failed to do: throw sunshine on the most important work of a school board, negotiating its contract with the teachers union. Over 80% of a district’s budget is spent on this agreement, yet parents and teachers are usually shut out of these smoky back-room meetings. How our children will be taught, how they interact with the people with whom we entrust them, and how those people will be treated and paid should NOT be decided in darkness.

We will now have a chance to change that.

I can’t wait to hear the reasons those in the smoky back room will give us to vote against sunshine. How are unions going to say, “We don’t want our members to see how we are really representing them”? How will school boards say, “We don’t want parents and taxpayers to see what we really value”? How will school staff say that a little sunshine will destroy negotiations?

This proposed law would not change the ability for a district and a union to agree on any contract terms they like. Just like the state legislature arguing over the budget, they will just have to do it in public. Stay tuned.

Need a little video entertainment?

KUSA news anchor Kyle Clark joined me for a taping of Devil’s Advocate to talk news coverage. Watch it here.

Can a little person make a big case for Freedom? Justin Longo and I chat about Boulder County shutting down a carnival sideshow because it felt “icky” on this videocast of IITV.

Mark your calendar

What other think tank does firearm trainings? Learn about “The Practical Approach to Colorado Laws on Concealed Carry and the use of Deadly Force” with Dave Byassee on the evening of Wednesday, August 20. To learn more, visit our events page here.

For a list of several other gun safety classes being held at the Independence Institute offices, visit the Shooting With a Purpose page here.

And our friends at American Majority are putting on an incredible event starring Carly Fiorina (former Hewlett-Packard CEO and former U.S. Senate candidate) and radio host Hugh Hewitt on unlocking your political strength. And get this: it’s free! Saturday, August 23, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Check it out now at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/unlocking-potential-all-star-workshop-with-carly-fiorina-and-hugh-hewitt-tickets-12476117403

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Putting sunshine where the sun don’t shine

Posted by on Aug 07 2014 | education, Petition Rights, Politics, Transparency

Last Friday, the Independence Institute took another step towards forcing more transparency in government–school districts in particular.

We delivered over 127,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office to place a citizens’ initiative on this fall’s ballot. If passed, it would require that, when school districts negotiate a teachers union contract, it be open to the public. Pretty radical, huh?!

Here’s the exact wording you’ll see on your ballot in November: “Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes requiring any meeting of a board of education, or any meeting between any representative of a school district and any representative of employees, at which a collective bargaining agreement is discussed to be open to the public?”

Imagine that. Government doing the work of the people, well, in front of the people, and not in smoke-filled back rooms. Isn’t it insane that we have to go through all the trouble and expense of a citizens’ initiative to pry open the locked doors of government?

In the last several years, Republicans in the state legislature introduced bills three times to have Colorado join the 11 other states with such a policy. And three times it was shot down by the special interests who want to continue meeting in the dark: teachers unions and school districts.

Well, since the legislature won’t get the job done, we will! It’s what we do around here.

Financially speaking, the most important function of a school board is negotiating their teachers’ contracts. It can be 80% of the district’s budget. Imagine the state legislature negotiating how to spend 80% of the state budget in a back-room meeting? No one would stand for it. And we won’t stand for it in our school districts, either.

We all have a stake in these talks, and we all should be able to keep an eye on the negotiating table. Teachers can finally observe how both sides represent pay and working conditions. They can finally see if their union and the district really have their interests at heart. Parents could see how policies affecting their children’s teachers and classroom policies are discussed and decided. It’s their children, after all.

Back in June, the Colorado Springs Gazette wrote an editorial endorsing our ballot initiative. You can read their endorsement here.

We’ll find out within 30 days if we’ve made the ballot. You can bet those who love back-room deal-making will hope we fall short of the 87,000 valid signatures needed. We won’t.

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