The Denver teachers union isn’t wasting time getting ready for the November election, opting to announce three endorsements four months earlier than normal. Those endorsements are: Meg Schomp, Roger Kilgore and Michael Kiley.
The 3,000-member Denver Classroom Teachers Association Thursday announced three endorsements but conspicuously did not endorse anyone running for the southwest Denver seat now held by Andrea Merida. Merida has announced plans to run for re-election. DCTA endorsed Merida four years ago. But DCTA Fund Chairperson Michelle Miller said DCTA hasn’t had an opportunity to interview people who may run against Merida, such as union organizer Rosario De Baca. Miller said DCTA expected to make its final endorsement by the end of the school year.
“We’re getting a jump on it a little earlier,” Miller said. “We think it’s a really important race. We found some really quality candidates and we want to get behind them as quick as we can.”
In a statement the DCTA said believes the following three candidates “exemplify DCTA’s core values of educator excellence, student success and shared accountability.”
In District 3, which represents central Denver, DCTA is putting their weight behind Schomp, an active parent in her children’s schools. The seat is now held by Jeanne Kaplan, who is term-limited after eight years on the board. School finance lawyer Michael Johnson is also running for the seat.
“Meg Schomp’s desire for educator excellence is literally in her DNA,” the DCTA stated in a news release, pointing out that Schomp’s mother Kaye was an education civil rights leader during her tenure on the school board a generation ago.
In District 4, which covers northeast Denver, the teachers union is backing Kilgore over board member Landri Taylor.
Kilgore is co-chair of the District School Improvement and Accountability Council (SIAC).
“We find Roger’s ability to be an independent voice in a polarized environment refreshing,” the release said. “As a board member, Kilgore will use his expertise and analytical skills to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely, bringing community into the process.”
Finally, DCTA is supporting Kiley in the at-large race to fill outgoing board President Mary Seawell’s seat.
“Though his children are still in elementary school, Kiley has become engaged in both his neighborhood middle school (Skinner) and North High School, rallying parents, teachers, and the community around the schools with marked success,” the statement read. “Kiley’s at-ease style should not be mistaken for naiveté, as his depth of knowledge of DPS issues is remarkable.”
The DCTA described Kiley’s goal of a quality school in every neighborhood as not being at odds with the district’s heavy emphasis on choice, but “is truly the missing component of a process that has received scrutiny for its shortcomings.”
Former Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, now head of Get Smart Schools, is also pondering running for the at-large seat. If she does, that’ll mean a tough fight for Kiley.
Miller said the key issues this year for the DCTA are the implementation of Senate Bill 10-191, the teacher effectiveness law, the district’s fiscal management and concerns about whether enough money it making it to the classroom level, and due process for teachers.
“We feel really confident about these candidates, that they are able to represent community interests as well as teachers and students,” Miller said. “We’re very impressed with their opinions about how to engage our communities…and make sure all stakeholders have e a voice in the reforms.”
The DCTA endorsement carries with it the promise of a significant financial boost. Five labor unions – the DCTA, its statewide affiliate the Colorado Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO, and the United Food and Commercial Workers – pitched in a total of $103,450 to support its three candidates in 2009.
In 2011, an independent expenditure committee called Working America campaigned in support of board member Arturo Jimenez and Emily Sirota, who were endorsed by the Denver teachers’ union. Jimenez won; Sirota lost. Working America raised and spent $4,079, with all contributions coming from Working America, which describes itself as a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO in Washington D.C.
The DCTA and the statewide Colorado Education Association were the sole donors to Delta 4.0, a 527 political organization that supported Jimenez. The unions contributed $86,000.