School Choice & Charters

Ill-Chosen Words—or Excess Candor?

By Erik W. Robelen — April 10, 2007 1 min read

Ever wonder what a politician really thinks, when the prepared remarks are put aside, the cameras turned off, and no one but a trusted friend or colleague is (apparently) listening? Colorado residents recently got a taste, it seems, of such candor from the now former chairman of the state House’s education committee.

In a private e-mail that eventually found its way into the public domain, Democratic Rep. Michael Merrifield wrote: “There must be a special place in Hell for these Privatizers, Charterizers, and Voucherizers! They deserve it!”

The Dec. 6 message to Sen. Sue Windels, a Democrat who chairs the companion Senate panel, recently was posted on a conservative-leaning political blog,, and from there picked up steam—and media attention.

Ultimately, Mr. Merrifield apologized and late last month stepped down as chairman, though he is staying on the committee and said he is relinquishing the helm only for the remainder of this year’s legislative session.

The message had to do with legislation that, as originally drafted, would have severely restricted the ability of the Charter Schools Institute, a statewide body, to continue as an authorizer of charter schools. The state has more than 130 such schools. The Colorado Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, and some school districts have strongly opposed the institute, arguing that it has usurped local control.

Randy DeHoff, who heads the institute and is a member of the state board of education, said it’s no secret that Mr. Merrifield is hostile to charter schools and other forms of school choice.

“He has voted against [virtually] every piece of legislation that has tried to expand or strengthen school choice,” Mr. DeHoff said. “What was surprising was the vehemence and the language that Merrifield used.”

Rep. Merrifield said in a March 30 statement: “Despite the private nature of the e-mail, I deeply regret the strong language and disrespectful tone. I am sorry for any offense taken.”

In a separate statement that day, he said his decision to step down as chairman was driven by the e-mail message and by health considerations. He is battling throat cancer.

“I don’t want my remarks or my health to sidetrack the important work of the House education committee,” he said.

See Also

See other stories on education issues in Colorado. See data on Colorado’s public school system.

For more stories on this topic see Charters and Choice.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 11, 2007 edition of Education Week


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and wellbeing during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Marketing Coordinator
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Sr Project Manager, Marketing (Temporary)
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Letter to the Editor Are NOLA Charters a Mixed Bag?
To the Editor:
The opinion essay by Douglas N. Harris about how New Orleans’ education reforms post-Katrina are relevant to the COVID-19 era (“As Schools Recover After COVID-19, Look to New Orleans,” Sept. 30, 2020) highlights some basic improvements in the NOLA system but downplays the most significant aspects of those changes: the impact on people of color.
1 min read
School Choice & Charters Home Schooling Is Way Up With COVID-19. Will It Last?
The shift could have lasting effects on both public schools and the home-schooling movement.
10Homeschool IMG
School Choice & Charters Opinion Challenging 3 Common Critiques of School Choice
A new volume from Corey DeAngelis and Neal McCluskey challenges some of the familiar but suspect assertions that pepper public debates about school choice.
3 min read
School Choice & Charters Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read