Pro-66 campaign surpasses $10 million in contributions

Bill and Melinda Gates, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a charity founded by Steve Jobs’ widow are among major new donors to Colorado Commits to Kids, the campaign committee that’s pushing to pass Amendment 66.

LogoThe committee reported $2.5 million in donations during the last two weeks. The Monday filing with the Department of State was the last one required before the Nov. 5 election.

Bloomberg Philanthropies gave $1.05 million while the Gates contributed $1 million of their own funds, not from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major donor to education reform causes.

The Emerson Collective, a California charity founded by Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs, gave $100,000.

Earlier this year Bloomberg gave $350,000 to a committee that supported Democratic state Sens. John Morse of Colorado Springs and Angela Giron of Pueblo in recall elections that they both lost. Conservative commentators criticized that contribution, and Bloomberg’s A66 gift was prompting critical comments on Twitter Monday afternoon.

In a statement provided by Colorado Commits, Gov. John Hickenlooper said, ““Our deep thanks go to Bill and Melinda Gates, Mayor Bloomberg and all of our Colorado donors for supporting Amendment 66. It is a testament to the breadth and depth of our reforms that Colorado has attracted the attention of business leaders across the country.”

Colorado Commits reported spending $4.9 million during the Oct. 10-23 reporting period, $3.1 million of that on advertising. That’s brings total campaign spending to $9.4 million.

Here are other major recent contributors to the campaign:

  • Reuben Munger of Boulder venture capital company Vision Ridge Partners – $200,000
  • Liberty Global, an international cable company headquartered in Colorado and headed by John Malone – $100,000
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – $50,000
  • James Crowe of J.Q. Crowe Co in Englewood and a former Level 3 executive – $25,000
    Pat Hamill, CEO of Oakwood Homes – $15,000

Major contributors in prior reporting periods included the National Education Association and the Colorado Education Association ($2 million each) and Pat Stryker, a prominent Fort Collins philanthropist and Democratic Party funder, who’s given $825,000.

Other big expenditures in the last two weeks included an additional $1.1 million to FieldWorks, the company running the campaign’s canvassing efforts; $487,392 to TBWB Strategies, a San Francisco consultant that specializes in ballot measures, and $149,087 to Chism Strategies, another consulting company.

Coloradans for Real Education Reform, the main A66 opposition committee, reported raising a total of $24,400 across the entire campaign period. Virtually all of that has come from the Independence Institute, the libertarian/conservative think tank. The group has spent $19,352, mostly on political consultants.

The group’s primary campaign gambit was un unsuccessful legal challenge to some of the petitions that put A66 on the ballot. The spending report listed no legal expenses.

Another underfunded opposition group, Kids Before Unions, on Monday reported raising a total of $11,642 and spending $8,907.

Other players in the A66 campaign

Four other committees have reported raising a total of more than $136,000 in the effort to pass A66.

The Bell Action Issue Committee has raised $16,100, primarily from a related organization, and spent $14,377, mostly to reimburse salaries of Bell Policy Center employees who work on the campaign.

The Great Education Colorado Action Committee, an affiliate of the advocacy group Great Education Colorado, has raised $35,000 and spent $24,657. Its also received $24,657 in non-monetary contributions.

Greeley Commits to Kids has raised $33,841 and spent $17,912, most of it on advertising in Greeley.

The Stand for Children Issue Committee has raised $51,950 (almost all of it in prior reporting periods) and donated $50,000 to Colorado Commits.

There’s also been under-the-radar advertising spending on both sides of the A66 debate.

The Independence Institute, the conservative/libertarian thank tank, has been running television ads through another non-profit, Kids Are First. The ads don’t mention A66, the election or voting but rather argue a general theme of “Raise expectations, not taxes.”

The group’s website claims it has raised $734,350.

On the other side of the A66 debate, the Colorado Children’s Campaign and the Public Education & Business Coalition have been running ads with the general theme of improving schools and restoring education to what it used to be. Again, there’s no direct mention of A66, the election or voting.

Chris Watney, Children’s Campaign chief, has declined to tell EdNews how much is being spent on those ads.

As non-profits those groups don’t have to register with the Department of State and report spending because they aren’t expressly advocating for how to vote in the election.

A66 would increase state income taxes by a total of $950 million in the first year to fund a significant overhaul of the state’s school finance system, with an emphasis on funding for preschool and full-day kindergarten and on increased funding for at-risk students and English-language learners. (See this EdNews backgrounder for all the details.)

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”