A conservative slate of candidates, comprised of registered Republicans Becky Myers for district D, Mike Peterson for district B, Christy Williams for district E, and Kaylee Winegar for district G running for the nonpartisan Douglas County School Board has partisan support from the Colorado Republican Party and extremist groups.
Divisive and volatile public commentary punctuating school board meetings around the state has been fueled recently by debates around curriculum, policies of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and public health directives driven by the COVID pandemic.
Due to the polarization and politicization of these issues, campaigns to fill local board seats have seen increased participation, funding, and focus, especially in urban and suburban districts like Douglas County, which have histories of contentious campaigns, previously driven by education reform policies and school choice. Those issues were not as clearly partisan as the issues facing school boards in this election cycle.
As ideological fault lines have gelled, however, these non-partisan races have evolved into oppositional slates of candidates, who adopt platforms very much aligned with partisan policy positions, as well as sharing campaign resources to galvanize voting blocs and to leverage majorities on the boards for which they’re running.
As a slate, the Douglas County conservative candidates share a campaign website, “get out the vote” events, and campaign materials. They have coalesced under a platform of “integrity, transparency, and accountability,” but their meaningful distinctions from other candidates are centered in the aforementioned culture-war debates.
The conservative slate has been endorsed by the Colorado and Douglas County Republican parties and by a national political action committee called the 1776 Project PAC, promoting “pride and patriotism in American History,” and organizing around opposition to any perceived curriculum, training, teaching, or adaptation of critical race theory (CRT). The PAC was reportedly founded recently by a Trump supporter and is active in 50 races across the country.
CRT is a graduate-level academic movement of civil rights scholars which studies American history though a lens of institutional racism and intergenerational discrimination. The theory is not taught in Colorado’s K-12 schools.
On their website, FEC United, a far-right political organization focusing on issues of faith, education, and commerce, promotes three of the four Douglas County candidates’ identical answers to FEC’s candidate survey questions, all of which align with FEC positions regarding masks, vaccine testing mandates, and CRT-related issues.
FEC is now mostly known for pushing election conspiracies and for its founder, Joe Oltmann, being sued for billions by Dominion Voting Machines over alleged defamatory claims — completely unsubstantiated and debunked by election experts and officials — that the vendor for Colorado’s vote tabulation machines manipulated results to favor President Joe Biden. Colorado’s chairwoman of the GOP, Kristi Burton Brown, was a former president of FEC.
A militia organization associated with FEC, the United American Defense Force (UADF), has called on its members to pack school board meetings in District 20 near Colorado Springs, in order to oppose mask mandates. Members of UADF, wearing shirts proclaiming their affiliation with the militia group, had previously appeared at another district’s board meeting in July, supporting speakers opposed to CRT.
The Douglas County School District is also currently embroiled in a federal suit over public health directives the current board, which is suing the county’s newly autonomous health department (since withdrawing from the Tri-County Health Department, previously shared with Arapahoe and Adams jurisdictions) which instituted an opt-in mask policy for schools’ students and staff and also limited quarantines for those exposed to COVID.
The four candidates of the conservative slate all support allowing parents to choose whether their students wear masks in school.
Last month, Myers, Peterson, Williams, and Winegar appeared on Kim Monson’s local conservative talk radio show to discuss their campaigns and their policy positions.
Monson framed the campaign as “a battle for our country right now, and a battle for our kids.”
The following are selected quotes from their interviews:
MIKE PETERSON, on appropriate lessons of American history: “One of the reason I’m running for school board is I think this is a generational battle. Either we get these next generations of kids back on track and understanding there’s absolutely privilege in America and it’s American privilege. And unless they embrace that and get back on track and understand what a great country this is, we’re going to be in some trouble 15-20 years down the road.”
MIKE PETERSON: “We have a board down in Douglas County, if you’ve ever watched any one of the school board meetings, they definitely think they know more than the parents. And that’s not how this thing’s supposed to run.”
MIKE PETERSON: “But if you’re going to be pro-school, you’re going to be — you need to be pro choice in education across the board. So, while we intend to make our public schools — both neighborhood and charter — the best and most competitive in the area, we also have to recognize that a lot of our families pick private schools or even home schools. And they’re taxpayers as well. And so, not only do we look to support and make public school option the best it can be, we also want to support those families in Douglas County that pay taxes, that pick those other options and make sure that they’re not being oppressively affected by negative legislation coming out of Denver or other places, and that we have true choice in schooling across the county.”
MIKE PETERSON: “Parents are the experts on their kids. They need to make risk decisions for their kids. The teachers need to make risk decisions for themselves. And if you put those two — not in opposition to each other, like this board has done with its policies — but if you put teachers who are the experts on education in collaboration with the parents that are experts on their kids, then we’re going to make this district not only the best in the metro area, it has the potential to be the best in the state.
MIKE PETERSON “We forced a bunch of working families here in Douglas County to choose. In many cases, one of them quit their jobs to stay home and be childcare and/or the teacher at home, because of the disruption that we caused.”
KAYLEE WINEGAR, speaking on indoctination: “For some reason my mind went to McDonald’s and how a reason they came up with Happy Meals is so kids could start early on fast food and then they’d grow up and enjoy it. So, probably people who want to infiltrate our country start with kids as well. So it’s a method that works and we’ve got to really be vigilant and look out for our children.”
KAYLEE WINEGAR: “When it comes to curriculum, it definitely needs to be transparent and probably does need a ‘look-over’ on what we’re telling teachers they’re allowed to teach. And then when it comes to mask wearing, parents are the ultimate authority over their health. And right now the experts are split on whether mask wearing is effective for children. So, why do we have to mandate it? For the one expert to say that is effective, to me, that means that the right thing to do is to make it a choice. And so, that’s where I stand, is that we really need to fight to make it a choice for our kids because my personal stance is I do not like sending my daughter with a mask to school. She’s five years old and I get worried if she’s too hot she’s too scared to take it down and I’m not there to tell her, ‘Yeah, you can. You can take it down.’ So, yeah, that’s my stance on it. … Unfortunately, a lot of leadership in Douglas County is doubling down on [mask mandates] and really creating this toxic environment where teachers feel like they have to enforce [it]. … Right now it’s coming from emails from the superintendent. But I mean, his bosses are the school board, so I’m sure there’s some enforcement from them as well.”
KAYLEE WINEGAR, on election integrity: “So, listeners, if you’re wondering if you should even vote, … please do! I mean, we have a very great, strong, secure county clerk in Douglas County, and your vote will count. And this is an off year, so we might be one of the only few things on the ballot. And you’re allowed to vote for all four of us and we really appreciate your your support.”
CHRISTY WILLIAMS, on quarantining and equity: “I have kids that were actually in school three days a week, every day, in person. And seeing my neighbors’ kids out riding their bikes all day, and the education gap that was created there was just so disheartening. I mean, as much as I love my kids, every kid in this district deserves the same education.”
CHRISTY WILLIAMS, commenting on Monson’s contention that some students are not proficient in reading, writing, and arithmetic due to time and resources allocated in the classroom to CRT and sexualizing children through the curriculum: “I totally agree. … We also have a responsibility to give the teachers the tools to be able to just get back to the basics and not putting in all these adult politics into the classrooms and giving them the tools and resources so that we can get our kids caught back up.”
CHRISTY WILLIAMS: “I think that first and foremost, parents are the experts on their children and that we need to give parents the choice. I mean, when it comes to masking, I’m not pro or anti-mask, I’m just pro-choice. So whatever you want to do for your family, I think that we should give that give that ability back to families. As far as curriculum, I think, too, parents should be involved in what’s being taught and they should know what’s going on.”
CHRISTY WILLIAMS, responding to Monson’s reference to the “COVID-19 Wuhan China Virus Reaction Disruption”: “Right, so, I 100% agree with you that one really good thing about COVID is that parents are now involved. And one of my passions is parent engagement. Because the more parents can be involved and engaged in their children’s learning, the quicker we’re going to get back to where we need to be.”
BECKY MEYERS, on the politicization of Douglas County Schools and unions: “But beginning in the 2000s, when we brought in — the board brought in — Elizabeth Fagan, I really started noticing the politicization of school boards and I was a little shocked. Now, mind you, I never was a member of the union. I just — I never chose to be one. And it was an option anyway, so I never felt the need that I needed to be part of a union. So, all of a sudden, I just started noticing things happening and just — I questioned exactly what does the union do for our teachers and for our students anymore?
BECKY MEYERS, describing how it was before there were divisive CRT curriculum debates: “And back then when I worked with all our teachers and I saw what was being taught, it was great! And especially I can remember social studies classes, teaching about the Constitution, teaching about our founding fathers. And I thought that was great. And that’s the one thing that especially our middle school kids need, is that foundation. So I just — the curriculum — I mean, I know teachers worked together. They decided as a subject area what they were going to teach, what they were going to put out to the kids. So, we had a pretty good sense and a pretty basic just education process going.”
BECKY MEYERS, on wearing masks at school: “Well, I have always been a proponent of choice. I just think that it’s important that parents choose what’s best for their kids.”
Listen to the entire interview from the Kim Monson Show using the SoundCloud link below: