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Bennet’s Detractors Hammer on Teacher Pensions

By Alyson Klein — October 05, 2010 2 min read

Education, which is usually pretty low on the list of hot campaign issues, is getting some traction in this congressional midterm-election season.

President Barack Obama appears to have incorporated the charge that Republicans would cut education spending by 20 percent into his current stump speech. GOP leaders have said that’s not the case.

And the White House has planned a high-profile event touting the administration’s accomplishments on community colleges, which some see as the latest and greatest economic engine.

Now education is even coming up in some campaign commercials.

The latest example? The Colorado Senate race, which probably wins the Politics K-12 Award for Most Education-ey, in part because the candidates take such vastly different views on the issue. The challenger is Ken Buck, an attorney and tea-party fave, who has said he wants to get rid of the U.S. Department of Education, and has questioned the federal student lending program.

Sen. Michael Bennet, the Democratic incumbent, is one of the Obama administration’s go-to-guys on education policy, and is even getting some campaign help from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Bennet has already attacked Buck on K-12 issues, saying his views are too extreme. (Check out this commerical.)

Now Bennet’s detractors are hitting him on what should be one of his greatest selling points, his tenure as the superintendent of Denver public schools. They’re bringing up a “risky” financial move Bennet and his staff made in managing the teacher pension system. Right before Bennet’s primary, the New York Times published a story on the deal that brought up cozy connections between Bennet and some of the financial organizations involved in the plan, but then the paper was forced to run a substantial correction saying it had mischaracterized some of those relationships.Check out District Dossier’s take on the NYT story, and on the later fallout.

The ad, which doesn’t even mention Buck, was produced by American Crossroads, which describes itself as a “non-profit political organization dedicated to renewing America’s commitment to individual liberty, limited government, free enterprise and a strong national defense.”

Here’s the text, as reported by Politico:

He GAMBLED with our teachers' retirements. Facing a $400 million shortfall, Denver school superintendent Michael Bennet pushed the school board into a RISKY deal with Wall Street bankers. The result: MILLIONS lost. And Denver taxpayers paid $115 million in interest and fees. NOW, Bennet has accepted contributions from the same Wall Street bankers who cost our schools. Michael Bennet should work for US - not Wall Street.

And you can watch the ad here.

This issue didn’t seem to hurt Bennet in his race against his challenger in the primary, Andrew Romanoff. But do you think it could be different now?

Let us know what you think!

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