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Education Reporter

Colorado School Board Rejects STW
Patti Johnson
Patti Johnson
DENVER, CO - The Colorado School Board adopted a resolution in December rejecting the national School-to-Work policy enacted by Congress in 1994. Approved by a vote of 5-2, the resolution declares that "schools are primarily institutions of learning and shall not be diverted from this noble mission by attempting to meet every non-academic need of students." The resolution was drafted by board member Patti Johnson, who left the board in January after serving since 1995.

Johnson was pleased with the outcome of the vote, but regrets that "some really strong statements" had to be removed from the original draft in order to get the resolution passed. "The original language was awesome, but the final resolution is still good," she says.

Deleted statements include: "Whereas, a system of workforce development boards charged with predicting the jobs of the future in local communities, which meet the needs of the community and local businesses rather than the needs of students, have been established in Colorado"; and "Whereas, work-based learning and integrated learning based on career pathways chosen by workforce development boards violate the student's constitutional right to liberty. . . ."

Colorado State Board of Education 
Whereas, schools are primarily institutions of learning and shall not be diverted from this noble mission by attempting to meet every non-academic need of students, and; 
Whereas, children are not a resource for the state; and 
Whereas, business should not be required or pressured by incentives or disincentives to participate in career programs, and; 
Whereas, government controlled economies have historically failed and free market economies have flourished; and 
Whereas, diplomas shall be determined at the local level; 
Be it Resolved that graduation shall be based on completion of study of core academics and non-academics shall be of a voluntary nature. Vocational directions shall be exclusively the free choice of individual students. 
Be It Further Resolved that the Colorado State Board of Education uphold the American Free Enterprise system and support a strong well-rounded academic education which offers all students the foundation to succeed in whatever post-secondary education or vocation they should choose to pursue. 
Adopted Dec. 14, 2000
"The initial draft 'resolved' that graduation shall not require volunteer service or any type of free labor and that students shall not be required to choose a career pathway whether college-bound or not," Johnson explains, "but those statements were softened."

A number of Colorado elected officials have praised Mrs. Johnson's work. Three Congressmen and one Senator endorsed her STW resolution in writing: Congressmen Bob Schaffer, Joel Hefley and Tom Tancredo, and Sen. Wayne Allard. Sen. Allard wrote: "This resolution promotes the idea that state and local officials should have the authority to decide how federal funds are best used to prepare today's children for the future. Federal financial support should not encumber local programs with federal mandates. . . ."

Rep. Tancredo stated: "As a former public school teacher, I believe all students should have access to a quality education and that these students should not be steered into jobs or duties that are against this fundamental right."

Rep. Hefley's letter noted: "The School-to-Work plan being implemented in our state has many disturbing elements that I believe go too far in 'career tracking' students. I do not like curriculum development where work-based learning and occupational learning are coupled with academic instruction for all students."

Congressman Schaffer promised to work with colleagues "to return more decision-making authority in education to the state and local levels." He cited the Education Flexibility Partnership Act and the Academic Achievement for All Act, which he indicated have been passed to that end. "In addition," Schaffer wrote, "we are fighting to make sure the federal School-to-Work program is defunded for FY 2001."

Patti Johnson's supporters describe her as a tireless champion of parents' rights during her five years on the Colorado State School Board. At her instigation, the board in 1999 became the first in the nation to pass a resolution warning of the possible negative effects of mind-altering prescription drugs, such as Ritalin, on children. (See Education Reporter, Dec. 1999.) Last September, Mrs. Johnson testified before a congressional subcommittee on this issue, and Rep. Schaffer credited her testimony for the hearing's success. "The hearing generated much interest among the public, causing committee members to schedule additional hearings in the future on behavioral drugs," Schaffer said.

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