A place in hell

Colorado’s House Education Committee chairman wrote in an e-mail that there must be a “special place in hell” for charter school supporters. Face the State, a political blog, reprinted the e-mail from Rep. Mike Merrifield, D-El Paso, to Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, chair of the Senate Education Committee.

“There must be a special place in hell for these Privatizers, Charterizers and Voucherizers. They deserve it!” he wrote.

Merrifield called two Colorado Springs school board members “evil twins” for backing a plan to let a high-scoring K-8 charter school, Cesar Chavez, turn a so-so district-run elementary, Hunt, into a charter.

The two state legislators want to let local school boards deny charter applications with no right of appeal to the state’s Charter Schools Institute.

When newspapers picked up the story, Merrifield said his anti-charter views are well-known. But today, he apologized for his language and resigned as chair of the committee.

About Joanne


  1. Charter Schools are a hit or miss type a thing. At my old school we had an Charter School for ‘at risk’ students. The one constant they did not have to deal with was the ‘red tape’ involved in using the dollars where they needed to be spent at. Obviously being a school catering to at risk students, the ability to put in an academic success plan that would allow them to make up failing grades and/or lost grade levels appealed to a good number of students. Unfortunately, there were a lot of students that just really didn’t want to be at school…any school for that matter.


  2. I’m always amazed at the vehemence of opposition to charter schools, vouchers, and privatization. It’s as if some of these people care nothing about education proper, only the preservation of traditional public schools at any cost — and those all-or-nothing sentiments sublimate into stupid ad hominem attacks.

    Also, slightly off-topic, but the title showing at the top of my browser right now says “A place in hell at Joanne Jacobs”. Is that what Merrifield meant? 🙂

  3. Not to defend the sort of attitude typified by the good state rep but that attitude is understandable.

    Charters are a distinct and meaningful departure from past practice. That scares the people dependent on the current system and scared people lash out.

  4. Cardinal Fang says:

    How did a private email from one charter opponent to another end up in the newspaper? It seems unfair that someone should lose his job for intemperate remarks in a private email.

  5. wayne martin says:

    > It seems unfair that someone should lose his job for
    > intemperate remarks in a private email.

    The fellow resigned a committee chair, not lost his job.

  6. wayne martin says:

    > How did a private email from one charter opponent to
    > another end up in the newspaper?

    This is a very good question which doesn’t seem to have an obvious answer from looking at the email shown in the article.

  7. eduranter says:

    There is no such thing as a “private” email.

  8. The contents of the e-mail were obtained by a perfectly legitimate (and legal) open-records request. See http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/government/article/0,2777,DRMN_23906_5455332,00.html

    Merrifield has a bill in committee that would restore authority over charter schools to the school districts who would like nothing better than to close all charter schools. The unforeseen (and laudable) resort of the e-mail disclosure is that that bill is probably dead – at least this session.

    Charter schools have had notable success in Colorado, both for high academic performing and also for at-risk students.

  9. wayne martin says:


    > Windels said Friday that she didn’t feel the private
    > e-mail should have been made public. The Web site that
    > posted it had filed an open-records request for
    > Windels’ correspondence.

    Thanks for pointing this out.

    Not every state has the same open-records laws, so it’s not clear whether people in other states could acquire private emails in the same fashion.

    However, for folks in Colorado .. it would seem that you have a weapon in your arsenal that is pretty potent for investigating government.

    What’s also not clear from this article is why the WEB-site that made the open-records requests were making such a request.

  10. Twill00 says:

    1) An email made by a public official to another public official on public matters is not a private correspondence. Personally, I think that all interactions between lawmakers should be public record.

    2) He hasn’t lost his job, yet. Hope that he does, because we need to improve the school system and the current method – monopoly control by a system that doesn’t work – is seriously broken.

  11. wayne martin says:

    > An email made by a public official to another public
    > official on public matters is not a private correspondence.

    The following, which reports on a recent Arizona appellate court opinion, would suggest that all emails between public officials may not necessarily be a matter of public record:
    Public employees’ ‘personal’ e-mail not public record

    An appellate court opinion allowing government employees to shroud e-mail messages created on government computers by declaring them “personal” will be appealed by the newspaper seeking the records.

    Aug. 15, 2006 • Private e-mail messages written by government employees and sent from publicly owned computers are not subject to Arizona’s public disclosure laws, the state Court of Appeals in Tucson said in a decision that Phoenix Newspapers Inc. plans to appeal to the state’s highest court.

    “If left standing, this decision would seriously undercut the public’s ability to keep tabs on public officials and [on] public resources,” said David Bodney, attorney for The Arizona Republic. “It allows a public official to pronounce his own e-mail as purely personal and therefore beyond public review.”

    A three-judge panel, relying on a previous decision by the Arizona Supreme Court, ruled Aug. 4 that in order for an e-mail message to be deemed public, it must not only be created by a government employee on a government computer, but it “must also have some relation the official duties of the public officer that holds the record.”

    This will end up being a state-by-state matter.