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Campaign committees spend $1.1 million

Campaigns spent more than $1.1 million in eight major Colorado school districts to convince voters to pass tax increases for bonds and operating revenue increases last fall.

The Nov. 6, 2012, election saw voters in 29 school districts approve 34 bond issues and operating revenue increases – plus one sales tax hike – worth just over $1 billion. Only three proposals in small outstate districts were defeated.

Advocates for increased school spending statewide have taken the election results as an indication that voters are willing to support increased school funding in a broader way. Legislators this year are expected to consider a school finance reform package that could include a $1 billion tax proposal to voters next November. (See this article for details.)

Education News Colorado reviewed final 2012 finance reports filed by the committees involved in campaigns in the seven largest districts that held elections. All passed. Here’s the rundown (the first figure is the amount raised, the second the amount spent):

  • Aurora Citizens for Excellent Schools: $134,705, $131,368
  • Citizens for Cherry Creek Schools: $217,022, $176,573
  • Citizens for Jeffco Schools: $173,410, $144,506
  • Together for Denver’s Schools: $563,818, $538,203
  • Committee to Support Education in Greeley/Evans: $18,736, $18,736
  • D70 Kids First (Pueblo County): $20,224, $20,224
  • Yes on 3A (St. Vrain): $85,944, $85,944

The Stand for Children Issue Committee, which supported tax proposals in both Aurora and Denver, raised $39,946 and spent the full amount.

The only other metro-area district that held a tax election was Sheridan, where the Best for Sheridan Students Committee raised $5,835 and spent the same amount.

Spending by opposition groups in Denver and Jeffco was insignificant. No on Denver 3B Bond raised $1,850 and spent $1,613. Two groups in Jeffco raised and spent a total of $6,735.

Other spending by education groups

Committees that contributed to candidates in 2012 also filed their 2012 spending reports last month.

Fifteen committees connected to the Colorado Education Association or its local affiliates reported raising just over $1.3 million and contributing $765,518.

The biggest spenders were the CEA’s Public Education Committee, which distributed $598,050 in contributions, and the Jefferson County Education Association Small Donor Committee, which spent $40,830.

The AFT of Colorado Small Donor Committee raised $70,458 and contributed $59,181.

Two education reform groups also were involved in 2012 campaigns. The Democrats for Education Colorado Political Committee raised $5,375 and spent $4,961, while the Stand for Children Small Donor Committee raised $30,929 and spent $27,300.

Most of the active education groups are small donor committees, which build their war chests through annual contributions of no more than $50 each from individuals.

The bulk of contributions went to legislative candidates (overwhelmingly Democrats), with a few contributions made in district tax elections and statewide races. Some contributions also were made to 527 and independent expenditure committees, which in turn spent money in several key legislative races. Such committees aren’t required to report exactly how they spend their funds.

Some candidates also received non-monetary contributions from education-related groups, including volunteer time.

Races of note

Spending totaled nearly $653,000 in two state Senate races of high interest to the education community.

In Westminster’s District 19, Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak raised $227,540 and spent $223,330 in her razor-thin victory over Republican Lang Sias. He raised $123,144 and spent $113,246. Hudak will be chair of the Senate Education Committee during the upcoming legislative session.

In Lakewood’s District 22 Republican Ken Summers also was outgunned by victorious Democrat Andy Kerr, who raised $198,768 and spent $191,363. Summers’ totals were $130,190 and $125,041. Both men represented Lakewood districts in the House and sat on the House Education Committee. Kerr will be on Senate Education this year.

Money didn’t seem to be a factor in the at-large race for University of Colorado regent.

Democratic incumbent Stephen Ludwig raised and spent $30,733 in his narrow rematch win over Republican Brian Davidson, who raised and spent $57,497.

In the only contested race for State Board of Education, Democratic incumbent Angelika Schroeder of the 2nd District raised $17,728 and spent $17,676. Defeated Republican candidate Ann Fattor raised $2,735 and spent it all.