Group’s ad campaign backs school changes

Americans for Prosperity chapter supports reforms

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The Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity – whose controversial parent organization has strong ties to right-wing causes - launched an ad campaign Aug. 21 in support of Douglas County School District’s education reforms.

Director Dustin Zvonek, a Douglas County resident, said the timing of the campaign is not related to the November school board election.

“This comes in response to efforts by teacher unions and other left-wing special interests to reverse years of progress in the district,” according to a press release from AFP Colorado.

“We don’t get involved in races,” said Zvonek, whose children are enrolled in Douglas County schools. “What we care about is highlighting the reforms that are being put in place by the school district, and making sure the residents of the district know about them. They are being leaders in terms of pushing the envelope on education reform.

“Despite some of the misinformation (residents) might be hearing, the school district is actually getting stronger for the people that matter most — which is of course the students.”

The press release describes school board critics’ efforts as “counterproductive.”

“While those hoping to roll back such innovations are desperately trying to paint these and other positive changes as something counterproductive and controversial, the district by all measures is not just healthy but thriving thanks to a pro-reform school board,” it reads.

Zvonek described AFP Colorado as a free-market organization involved in a number of issues, including education reform.

AFP Colorado is funded by private donations, Zvonek said.

“We’re funded by lots of people from all across the state,” he said.

Zvonek is a former lobbyist who was employed by EIS Solutions in 2011 and 2012. The company specializes in “grassroots coalition building,” including legislative affairs, strategic message development and survey research, according to its website. In 2011, EIS was a campaign consultant for Douglas County Citizens for Education Reform, which supported two ultimately unsuccessful school district tax-hike proposals.

The Puliter Prize-winning PolitiFact, which fact-checks statements from politicians, lobbyists and special interest groups, gives low marks to AFP, the Colorado’s chapter parent organization. It rates one-third of its evaluated ads “mostly false,” and gives 22 percent of them its “pants on fire” rating — a category reserved for “the most ridiculous falsehoods.”

AFP’s website says it is “an organization of grassroots leaders who engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state, and federal levels.”

AFP was founded with support from billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, who are known for their support of right-wing causes and advocacy groups.

Currently, AFP is campaigning against the national health care legislation known as Obamacare.

In 2011 and 2012, AFP was a private-sector member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national nonprofit of legislators and private companies whose members write model legislation.