clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Opinion: Campaign launches; funders unknown

The One Chance Colorado education reform advocacy campaign officially launches today with a 30-second TV ad on five stations, a website and social media presence.

Here’s a look at the campaign’s first ad:

I wrote about the campaign last week, and there’s not a lot more detail to offer than what leaked out then. Look for billboards, signs at bus-stops, and a presence on Twitter, Facebook and the web.

The statewide campaign has been in the works for over a year. The timing of its launch corresponds with the start of a new school year, former Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien said yesterday. The campaign is tentatively scheduled to last through September, but could go longer depending on the success of fundraising efforts.

“We intend to have a laser focus on accelerating chances for kids,” she said. O’Brien currently works for The Piton Foundation (a funder of Education News Colorado), but said her work with One Chance Colorado grows out of her decades of work on education reform.

The campaign focuses on the following principles (taking directly from a campaign press release):

  • Invest in teachers and principals. Great education begins with an excellent teacher in every classroom and a terrific principal at each school.
  • Demand accountability. Teachers, principals, administrators, politicians and parents should all be held to high expectations.
  • Support great public schools, period. Neighborhood, charter and innovation schools can all provide excellent options for Colorado’s children.
  • Put children first.

O’Brien said local foundations are funding the effort, but she declined to name the foundations or the project’s budget (rumored to be in the neighborhood of $1 million). I pressed her on this, because it strikes me as odd and counterproductive for a public awareness campaign to be cloaked in this kind of secrecy.

But she reiterated that the focus should be on the campaign’s principles, not on its funders or budget. We’ll see how that plays out in the wider world.

The Colorado Education Association (an EdNews sponsor) issued a statement this morning “cautiously welcoming” the concept, but expressing skepticism about the campaign and its exclusivity.

“We’re a bit perplexed that One Chance Colorado has left teachers out of discussions that are presumably focused on the classroom,” CEA Executive Director Tony Salazar said in a statement. “That said, we welcome the opportunity to participate.”

O’Brien said the CEA wasn’t invited into the campaign because the coalition “is mostly people and organizations that have worked together on these issues for years and have a common vision” as well as a sense of “urgency and mission.”

“If other people or organizations want to join us, great,” O’Brien said, adding that organizations currently in the coalition “don’t need debates on the principles.”

Salazar also asked whether the campaign has a covert political agenda. If so, he said, the CEA would be concerned.

“We hope this is not just a veiled effort to influence elections in the Denver Public School district,” Salazar said. “If this is about DPS School Board elections, then One Chance Colorado is doing the people of Colorado a great disservice by using accountability – which is so important in every school district and public school student in the state – as an election pawn instead of approaching the issue with the care, thought and collaboration it deserves.”

O’Brien said the campaign is “absolutely not” related to the pivotal DPS elections in November. Most members of the coalition are 501 (c) (3) non-profits, a tax status which prohibits them from endorsing or working directly on behalf of candidates.

According to a press release from One Chance Colorado:

The coalition is comprised primarily of 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to improving the lives of Colorado’s children, including Colorado Children’s Campaign, Stand for Children Leadership Center, Education Reform Now, Colorado Succeeds, A+ Denver, Democrats for Education Reform – Colorado, Get Smart Schools, Byrne Urban Scholars, Common Good Colorado, Colorado “I Have A Dream” Foundation, Urban League of Metropolitan Denver, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

The COVID-19 outbreak is changing our daily reality

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to providing the information families and educators need, but this kind of work isn't possible without your help.