What better person to write a case study of SB 191 – Colorado’s groundbreaking
teacher evaluation legislation – than the legislative director for Mike
Johnston, the state senator who shepherded it through to passage? Scott Laband
describes the political, policy, and messaging elements that were essential for
the legislation’s ultimate success:
strong and credible leadership.” Sen. Johnston, a former Teach for America teacher
and principal, had the credentials to lead the charge. Selecting the right
co-sponsors with enough expertise to ward off amendments to the bill’s key
provisions was also crucial.
the policy right.” SB 191 started by “identifying the flaws of the existing
teacher and school leader evaluation system.” It was a pro-teacher piece of
legislation that overhauled several things at once rather than in piecemeal
fashion (evaluations, tenure, placement, and reductions in force – with the
former informing the latter three). Laband also points out the importance of
compromises on non-vital amendments, and “rotating political cover” so that no
single lawmakers had to go against his/her own caucus too many times.
a powerful coalition.” To rally the support necessary to upend a deeply
entrenched teacher personnel system, proponents crafted a concept paper early
on in the process, identified any and all potential partners (including the
civil rights community), and garnered support especially among teachers
themselves. The process for creating the coalition sounds arduous, but the
brief is compelling in describing its necessity.
broad based advocacy.” Chief among advocacy strategies was raising money,
maintaining a strong web presence, and implementing a sophisticated lobbying
the message.” The campaign around SB 191 was unwaveringly pro-teacher, and
framed the legislation as helping solve the problem
of the achievement gap (rather than portraying ineffective teachers as the main
obstruction). Key components of messaging included: polling data, success
stories of students and teachers, dispelling “myths,” and “rewarding
champions,” (DFER raised $500k alone for Democrats who voted for the bill).
That Democrats led the charge to pass Colorado’s SB 191
certainly “defies conventional political wisdom.” That reality alone holds
lessons for the Buckeye State, as lawmakers typically have a hard time breaching
the partisan divide – especially when it comes to K-12 education policy.
Creating a Winning Legislative Campaign: The Colorado Story
Democrats for Education Reform