Who Is In Charge

Ed groups bat .785 on endorsements

The five education groups that endorsed or contributed to legislative candidates in the general election picked the winners at an overall rate of 78.5 percent.

Five organizations – the Colorado Education Association, American Federation of Teachers-Colorado, the Colorado Association of School Executives, Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform – backed legislative candidates. (The school executives only endorsed; political committees affiliated with the other groups gave financial contributions. Stand didn’t give money to every candidate it endorsed.)

Here’s the scorecard by organization:

  • CEA – Contributed to 41 candidates; 31 of those won. 75.6 percent.
  • AFT – Contributed to 42 candidates; 31 of those won. 73.8 percent.
  • CASE – Endorsed 32 candidates; 27 of those won. 84.3 percent.
  • Stand – Endorsed or contributed to 18 candidates; 15 of those won. 83.3 percent.
  • DFER – Contributed to only two Democratic Senate candidates; both won. 100 percent.
See bottom of story for charts showing endorsements and results by candidate.

It’s risky, of course, to draw conclusions about the impact of one group’s endorsement or contributions in a single district. Legislative races, particularly hotly contested ones, draw endorsements, contributions and volunteers from a wide variety of interest groups, not just ones interested in education.

And, endorsements and contributions also can be made for reasons other than trying to influence the vote. The five groups combined made 135 endorsements or contributions to 68 candidates in 63 Senate and House races. Of those candidates, about 30 were incumbents and some challengers who were expected to win easily. Three incumbents who ran unopposed even earned endorsements.

Of the contributions and endorsements by the five groups, 90 percent went to Democrats. CASE endorsed eight incumbent Republicans, all of whom were considered to be safe and all of whom in fact won.

Stand for Children endorsed five members of the GOP, two incumbents and three challengers. Two challengers were victorious and one lost; both incumbents won. Stand also endorsed Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison, a Democrat turned independent who ultimately lost to Democrat Roger Wilson after a lengthy review of Curry’s write-in votes.

The five groups were involved in a majority of the legislative races on the ballot – 47 of 65 House contests and 16 of 19 Senate races. (Because senators serve four-year terms, an additional 16 Senate seats weren’t up for election this year this year.)

John Morse
Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs

There was only one race where all five groups backed the same candidate – Democratic Senate Majority Leader John Morse in Colorado Springs’ Senate District 11. He won a narrow victory over Republican former Air Force officer Owen Hill after a high-spending race.

In Senate District 20, which stretches from Golden on the west to Edgewater on the east, all the education groups but CASE supported Democratic former state Rep. Cheri Jahn, who beat Republican small businessman John Odom.

Stand for Children and the two unions also supported victorious Democratic lawyer Pete Lee in House District 18, the Colorado Springs seat formerly held by Democrat Mike Merrifield, chair of the House Education Committee.

Here’s a look at some other key races where education groups endorsed or contributed:

In House District 3, which includes south Denver and part of Arapahoe County, incumbent Democrat Daniel Kagan, who voted against Senate Bill 10-191, defeated Republican Christine Mastin. CEA and CASE supported Kagan, while Stand backed Mastin.

Democratic retired teacher Laura Huerta lost to Republican incumbent Kevin Priola, a member of the House Education Committee, in Adams County’s House District 30. Both unions contributed to Huerta, while CASE and Stand for Children endorsed Priola, who voted for Senate Bill 10-191.

Keith Swerdfeger
Keith Swerdfeger

Retired Pueblo Education Association President Carole Partin lost the House District 47 seat in Pueblo County to Republican construction executive Keith Swerdfeger. The seat had been held by a Democrat. The two unions backed Partin, while Stand supported Swerdfeger. The two candidates together raised about $200,000, with more than $126,000 of that raised by Swerdfeger, who lost a bid for the seat two years ago.

Stand’s $4,000 contribution to Swerdfeger was one of the largest he received. In addition to money from the CEA political group the Public Education Committee, Partin also received contributions from CEA affiliates in Denver, Pueblo and Jefferson County.

Partin and Huerta were the only two Democratic newcomer candidates with extensive teaching backgrounds.

In another race that pitted education groups against each other, outgoing state Rep. Ellen Roberts, a Durango lawyer, defeated appointed Democratic incumbent Bruce Whitehead of Hesperus, a water engineer Senate District 6. The GOP has a modest registration edge, and Roberts has been in office longer than Whitehead. Both AFT and CEA contributed to Whitehead and CASE endorsed him, while Stand for Children endorsed Roberts. Whitehead voted against SB 10-191; Roberts for it.

In House District 56, centered on Summit County, Democratic Rep. Christine Scanlan was re-elected. The prime Democratic House sponsor of SB 10-191, she was backed by the AFT, Case and Stand. (Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver and the primary author of SB 10-191, won an easy victory over a nominal opponent in his Denver district. He was endorsed by CASE and Stand.)

Rep. Debbie Benefield, D-Arvada

In Jefferson County’s House District 29, incumbent Democrat Debbie Benefield lost narrowly to Republican Robert Ramirez in a race that was called only last week after provisional ballots had been counted. Benefield, a longtime parent and district activist, was a member of the House Education Committee and was backed by CEA, AFT and CASE.

In addition to Benefield and Whitehead, incumbents who voted against SB 10-191 and who lost included Democratic Reps. Dennis Apuan of Colorado Springs, Sara Gagliardi of Arvada and Dianne Primavera of Broomfield.

Two supporters of SB 10-191 lost their races, Curry and Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton. (Rice’s lead role in a bill that raised auto registration fees was seen as a factor in his defeat.)

Of Democratic incumbents backed by both teachers’ unions, 16 won and four lost.

Eleven non-incumbent Democrats were supported by both CEA and AFT; seven won and four lost.

Seven incumbents who were backed only by CEA won re-election, and one lost. Both of the Democratic newcomers supported only by CEA lost.

Four other education groups that are active in legislative lobbying and in some ballot measure campaigns do not endorse candidates. They are the Colorado Association of School Boards, the Colorado PTA, the Colorado League of Charter Schools and Great Education Colorado.

Final 2010 campaign contribution and spending reports are due to the secretary of state by Dec. 2.

Support and results by House, Senate district

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Information about endorsements and contributions was compiled from campaign spending reports filed with the secretary of state and from information provided by some of the groups. Search financial reports on the state website.

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Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”