August, 24th 2007

Another problem for Bob Schaffer?

– Liz Mair

Bob Schaffer, the Republican candidate (apparently, but not if you listen to his own words, I guess) for Colorado's open Senate seat, is this month's replacement for Mitt Romney as the focus of many posts, most of them not terribly congratulatory.

So, you'll be surprised to know I'm writing about Schaffer again, and that he seems, again, to have got himself in a spot of bother. From Colorado Pols:

Some school districts are collecting state money for the time students spend changing classes, a member of the state Board of Education said Monday.

Board member Bob Schaffer said it is "quite a stretch" to count the five minutes between classes as part of the educational day

The Colorado education department estimates that 32 of the state's 178 school districts will collect $145.2 million during the coming school year by counting passing periods as part of the academic day.


Schaffer, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2008, will propose a rule change when the state board meets in September.

In other words, Schaffer wants to change the rules so that schools can't collect money for portions of the day that students spend walking between classes.

For once (well, more than once, but still, it doesn't happen anything like 100% of the time), I find myself feeling a little sorry for Schaffer. Eliminating waste in Departments of Education, which usually have a lot of money to play with and a major obligation to spend all of it wisely, is something I care about and actually feel pretty strongly about. It's kind of a libertarian thing (something I don't usually accuse Schaffer of pursuing).

But, the problem is, parents don't like hearing that some nasty, "limit the government" type wants to steal the money being spent on their kids, even if it's being spent on something stupid (note: I'm not saying counting "passing time" as school is stupid-- I'm sure there are tons of much more stupid things that the Colorado DoE spends its money on).

One of Schaffer's objectives in his campaign, if he's going to keep doing things like this while on the School Board, has got to be figuring out how to a) identify more overt and annoying causes of "waste" where the education budget is concerned and b) make himself sound less like a kid-hater who wants everyone to be illiterate and innumerate while pursuing said waste-elimination goals. The latter is something that any politician with a libertarian bone in his or her body struggles with, because as Patrick Hynes kind of alluded to in his review of Ryan Sager's book, The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party (which I highly recommend you read), the portion of the electorate that has kids, has had kids, or plans to have kids (so 98%, then) doesn't dig the idea of cutting anything that has the word "education" within five millimeters of it.

But it's a particular issue for Schaffer, because so much else is against him heading into this campaign. He's running against a Udall, for God's sake. And already getting dogged by corruption allegations. And he's a strong social conservative in a state where only 43% of Colorado voters consider abortion immoral, and only 41% of Coloradans oppose extending rights from which married couples benefit to same-sex couples (though yes, the state did reject a law positively legalizing domestic partnerships last year, if not by a wide margin).

The more I watch this race, the more I see trouble for Schaffer. Sure, liberals in Colorado (what few there are), are looking for any way to stop him. But it seems like he's giving them some golden opportunities of late.


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