Peggy Propst will be the Republican candidate seeking to represent Adams and Weld counties on the Colorado State Board of Education. After winning the only contested primary among four open seats, she’ll face Democrat Rhonda Solis in November.
Propst, 62, has a long education record. She previously served on the State Board representing the Colorado Springs area, ran Colorado’s Gear Up program, a federally funded initiative to help at-risk, first-generation students get to college, homeschooled her own children for seven years, taught in the classroom, and served on charter school boards.
She recently moved to the district after remarrying. She was Peggy Littleton when she last served on the State Board more than a decade ago.
Throughout vote-counting Tuesday evening, Propst maintained a solid lead of 55% over Cody LeBlanc, a 24-year-old school board member from Fort Lupton, where he traces his family history back to early homesteaders. LeBlanc has been politically active since middle school and worked for Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck before running for school board.
Propst touted her experience and said her top priority would be improving reading instruction, while LeBlanc said he would be an advocate for local control.
Both Propst and LeBlanc raised concerns about Colorado adopting more progressive approaches to teaching about race, history, and sexuality, an indication that social and cultural issues could play a more prominent role this year than in past State Board races.
More than 43,400 votes were cast in the Republican primary election.
Solis, Propst’s Democratic opponent, recently finished two terms on the Greeley-Evans District 6 school board and serves as vice president of the Latino Coalition of Weld County.
Solis has said her focus would be on supporting teachers and making sure all children have access to high-quality neighborhood schools, while bringing a perspective that is lacking on the current board.
The State Board of Education hires the education commissioner; oversees the state accountability system, teacher evaluation, and licensure; hears charter school appeals; implements education laws; and sets state standards.
As an independently elected body, the State Board sometimes finds itself at odds with the legislature, whose laws the the board is supposed to implement. The board also can overrule local school boards on some issues.
Members are elected to represent each congressional district, as well as one new at-large seat. The board is growing from seven seats to nine due to redistricting.
The new 8th Congressional District is considered the most competitive in Colorado, with a large share of unaffiliated voters. It’s 40% Hispanic, a demographic that consistently ranks education as a top issue.
Three other seats are up for election this November.
Former Adams 12 school board President Kathy Plomer, a Democrat, faces military veteran and parent activist Dan Maloit, a Republican, in the at-large race.
Incumbent Democrat Rebecca McClellan, who represents the 6th Congressional District covering Aurora, Littleton, and Cherry Creek school districts, is being challenged by Republican parent activist Molly Lamar, as well as Unity Party candidate Christopher Otwell.
Incumbent Republican Steve Durham, who represents the solidly red 5th Congressional District in El Paso County, faces Democrat Joseph Shelton, a campus security guard.
The election has the potential to shift partisan control of the board, which has been held by Democrats since 2016. While many State Board votes are bipartisan and even unanimous, members have disagreed at times, including on how to intervene in low-performing districts and on proposed new social studies standards that aim to promote a more inclusive approach to history and social issues.
Bureau Chief Erica Meltzer covers education policy and politics and oversees Chalkbeat Colorado’s education coverage. Contact Erica at email@example.com.