The other thing we ask is no recording,” the Freedom Foundation moderator can be heard saying on the recording I recently obtained. The recording, which was provided by a source who wishes to remain anonymous, is of a panel discussion at a recent conference and prominently features Brad Miller, the controversial attorney for the Woodland Park school board. “If you guys want these guys to be frank, to be open with you guys, they don’t want to be on YouTube. I don’t want to be on YouTube. So if we can, just make sure that there is no recording.”

As it turns out, they could not.

In the panel discussion, recorded at a Freedom Foundation-sponsored event in Denver from July 10-12, Miller can be heard discussing a range of topics pertaining to education, parents’ rights, and teachers unions alongside three fellow panelists: Dicky Shanor, chief of staff for the Wyoming Department of Education; Anastasios Kamoutsas, chief of staff for the Commissioner of Florida’s Department of Education; and David Osborne, a senior fellow at the conservative Commonwealth Foundation.

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Miller, who works with many Colorado charter schools and a handful of school districts, introduced himself to the audience as an “anti-union, pro-family, pro-parents, attorney for school districts and charter schools here in Colorado.”

Over the course of the nearly two-hour discussion, Miller managed to provide direct confirmation of several claims made in my ongoing investigation of the battle for control of Woodland Park schools. He confirmed, as I have reported, that State Policy Network think tanks have played a prominent role in the Woodland Park project, and confirmed his own direct ties to those outside groups. Miller’s remarks also confirmed that certain personnel decisions, like the hiring of superintendent Ken Witt, were part of a calculated political plan, and provided a great deal of insight into how the right-wing movement to seize control of public education is using local control to its benefit.

Based in Olympia, Washington, the Freedom Foundation is one of the crown jewels of the State Policy Network which played a leading role in developing the aggressively right-wing American Birthright social studies standards. The organization – which promotes traditionally conservative views like opposition to abortion and equal rights for the LGBTQ community – really made its name through vocal opposition to teachers’ unions.

That’s what the Freedom Foundation was doing in Denver last month: opposing teachers’ unions. The conference, billed as the “Teacher Freedom Summit” was designed “to prepare teachers to combat the radical political agenda of the teacher unions.” The Foundation attempted to lure teachers to the event with the offer of “all-expenses paid” travel, promising “airfare, hotel accommodations and dinners all covered by the Freedom Foundation.”

While the funding trail documented in my last column substantiated that the State Policy Network had a heavy hand in the creation of the Birthright standards – which have only been implemented in Woodland Park – Miller’s presence at the conference goes a step further, demonstrating connections not just between SPN and the curriculum, but between SPN and personnel on the ground in Woodland Park. 

Mr. Miller acknowledged my request to comment for this story, but opted against providing a quote.

Comments Miller made during the panel discussion further substantiate those ties, and show the extent to which the controversial attorney is tapped-in to a national network of conservative operatives and media outlets.

Audio of Brad Miller

“Woodland Park has done some remarkably great things in a blue state. And we got to the point where the local media was really piling-on against us, kept trying to make us out to be bigots, kind of that ‘Don’t Say Gay’ type of thing,” Miller can be heard saying on the audio recording, lamenting the negative press garnered by his and his client’s actions. 

He had a solution for that.

“So I reached out to the Freedom Foundation, and we got an article in The Federalist,” he said, referencing the dark-money-funded national conservative news outlet. “It was very complimentary of what we were doing. So just being here and being connected with these guys is a big deal because you can, you know, emphasize your message through these other means. It’s really, really helpful.”

Faced with bad headlines, Brad Miller called the Freedom Foundation. The Freedom Foundation, Miller implies, called The Federalist. The Federalist obliged – and then some

Those connections have seemingly allowed Miller’s Woodland Park clients to emphasize their message in other conservative outlets as well, including appearances on Fox News

In the nearly two years since a slate of far-right candidates took control of the Woodland Park school board and hired Brad Miller, the district’s personnel situation has been topsy-turvy. Faced with a hostile board and an uncertain work environment, teachers and administrators have quit in droves. Others have been fired. In May, NBC News reported that nearly 40% of the district’s high school staff did not intend to return for the upcoming school year.

Even the incumbent superintendent, Dr. Mathew Neal, wasn’t safe from the vicissitudes of district life: he was out less than a year after the board came in, and quickly replaced by Ken Witt, the bombastic former president of the Jefferson County school board and a long-time ally of Brad Miller. In an earlier column, I detailed some of Witt and Miller’s history together, and indicated that Witt’s ascension to the top job in Woodland Park seemed to many locals like a foregone conclusion, part of a plan.

In his remarks at the Freedom Foundation convention in July, Brad Miller implied as much, acknowledging that certain hiring and firing decisions were part of a plan to seize ideological control of district administration. Referencing his work in Jefferson County in 2013 (“one of the big school districts I got a chance to do this in,” as he described it), Miller said he advised the incoming conservative school board that they needed to “engage a superintendent who is aligned with them,” in addition to “a few other elements.”

“The board secretary, the communications person. You know, there’s different folks within the system that, if they’re not aligned with you, they’re going to undermine you if you’re moving in a parent-friendly way.”

In the same answer, Miller explained that he advises insurgent conservative school board majorities to move quickly and quietly when they take control of a district. “You have to be very cognizant of building a structure quickly but without being too dramatic, because our friends in the union will make out that everything you’ve done is crazy and it’s disruptive.”

“I’ve gone through many, many cycles in Colorado, because we don’t have a majority in a lot of places,” Miller can be heard saying on the recording. “And so, when we grab it, it’s quick.”

Miller’s most important admissions during the wide-ranging panel discussion were about strategy, and how the parents’ rights movement can circumvent democracy to achieve its goals.

“In Colorado, the state is so blue that the decisions made at [the state] level in the state board and in the legislature are going to be contrary to what my clients want,” Miller said during the panel discussion.

The trick, Miller explained, is to get down to the local level. “School boards have a tremendous amount of power.”

“I get to come into a school district – in Colorado, in blue Colorado, Woodland Park,” Miller said, expounding on the size of the impact one conservative school board can have, even in a blue state, “We adopted American Birthright standards. We got rid of the MOU with the union and the union agreement. We changed our controversial material [policy] so that parents have to opt-in.”

Miler even flaunted the fact that his clients on the Woodland Park school board directly defied the state board of education by implementing the Birthright standards. “The state board rejected the American Birthright standards, a more conservative sort of social studies approach. In Woodland Park, we adopted it and said, ‘tell them try to stop us, we’re going to do this.’”

“I think local control still prevails in those really important ways,” Miller said.

My plan after detailing the American Birthright curriculum and the money behind it had been to turn the focus of this investigation towards the elephant in the room: the influence that Christian nationalism has exerted on the recent controversies in Woodland Park. It is a strain of the faith which would be unrecognizable as Bible-believing Christianity to centuries of past believers, and it has prominent outposts in Woodland Park in the form of Andrew Wommack Ministries and Charis Bible College. Examining those organizations, their ideology, and the role they have played in the Woodland Park School District remains my plan going forward — but my fortuitous receipt of smuggled audio required this slight detour from that schedule. 

The detour, as it turns out, was not that far. Miller’s remarks on the audio recording confirm much of what I have reported, but they also shine new light on the role of a nationalistic kind of faith in Miller’s own life and career. From the comments Miller made at the convention, it’s clear that his religious beliefs have motivated much of his work – and that he sees himself as a latter-day Athanasius, standing alone against a corrupted world.

“I look at, for example, in Colorado, the transgender expression laws, and the opportunity that our state has given to children to ostensibly express their gender differently, and I feel like Winston in 1984,” Miller said. “I feel like I’m alone against the world. And the truth is, most of our community is blind to the truth.”

“As a believer, it feels End-Times-ish to me.”

Audio of Brad Miller

NOTE: Due to an editing problem, this story was temporarily unavailable on the Colorado Times Recorder’s website. It appears here as initially published.