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Merrifield: Education's true defender 

Let's stop all the partisan rhetoric in regard to Rep. Michael Merrifield stepping down as chair of the Education Committee in the State House.

This is aresponseto the opposers of Merrifield and his so-called "true feelings" about education,vouchers andcharter schools, as described in a December e-mail to Sen. Sue Windels.

We've had enough of what I like to call "bully speak." To all the opposing legislators and community leaders, you know who you are. Let's put aside politics, and put the spotlight on our children's education and their needs.

Please stop ignoring the actual facts. Stoptrying to bash the opposition, hoping that others will buy into your words becauseyou throw inother words, like"Republican," "Democrat," "liberal" or "conservative." I like to think the general public is more discerning, and prefers the facts over your usual bully speak.

I keep looking for some supportinginformation illustrating why Rep. Merrifield is wrong about his opinions on charters and vouchers.Hmmm surprisingly enough, I can't find anything.

Luckily forall of you, I do have factual information that is nonpartisan, based on real numbers, and that camefrom a new District 11 and statewide study. Also, use of an actual "cost-benefit analysis" was used. You know, those formulas that successful organizationsand corporations use to make sure they are efficient and fiscally responsible? Please let me share this information with you, and the public.

As an example, I will refer to the local area where I live.

Did you know that most of the school districts in Colorado Springs and El Paso County already have school choice? If you apply during the designated timeframes, it is likely your children can go to any school in their own district, or even to a school in a completely different district. I live in D-11, and my son went to District 20 schools for four years.

Did you know that creating charterprograms is not a "financial wash," as the supporters of these programs would have you believe? It costs D-11a total of $12 million a year for its10 charter programs. That is $1.2 million a yearmore per 250charter studentsthan it is per 250 regular public-school students.

This is far from a wash. This is money being taken directly from our regular D-11 students. Also, D-11 numbers are in line with what other school districts in the state are experiencing.

Did you know that charter schools do not increase student achievement? As a matter of fact, essentially all authoritative, unbiased studies demonstrate that charter schools under-perform as compared to regular public programs, on average, for measured student groups even at-risk students.

Did you know the state Legislature and state Board of Education are effectively mandating that school districts, including D-11, fund these charter programs at the direct expense of regular public-school students? Even districts with sole chartering authority often have charters imposed on them by the state.

Oh, and let's not forget about vouchers.

Did you know vouchers allow our money, the taxpayers' money, to be allocated by the state of Colorado to private schools, ultimately used not only for education, but toward making a profit for the private owners of these institutions? Did you know vouchers also blur the lines in "separation of church and state" if the private school is a religious school?

If you know Rep. Merrifield, you also know he is aware of all this information, which is what fuels his passion against whatthe opposition is trying to do with education.

In my opinion, he was far too nice in his e-mail. His opposition, and the groups who are crying out the loudest against him, are turning this situation into a partisan bully match.

To them: All of you are truly the ones responsible for taking the money directly from our children's public-school education. Deprogram yourself from the steady stream of partisan instruction from the elders, and think for yourselffor a change. Did someone say agenda???

Rep. Michael Merrifield has always been a knowledgeable, valiant crusader for our children. He will survive the likes of bullies such as you.

Allison Hunter, a resident of Colorado Springs, is president of the El Paso County Democrats Club.

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