Colorado

Wide gaps in DPS board fundraising persist in second campaign filings

DPS logoDenver Public Schools board candidates who support the current district administration’s slate of policies continue to far outpace their opponents in fundraising, according to the second round of campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office on Friday.

Overall, candidates for DPS board seats raised nearly $149,000 in the past two and a half weeks, bringing total campaign donations in the race to $744,116.

Nine candidates are vying for four seats on the seven-member board. The races have been closely watched because while the current board has been supportive of the district and Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s accountability-based reform policies, that majority is narrow and could flip if more critics of the administration are elected. A sense of the high stakes in the races has motivated a spate of high-level donations, primarily to the four candidates who have pledged to continue the district’s current trajectory.

Friday’s filings show that pattern continuing. The bulk of the money raised in the reporting period — $113,580 — was given to those four: former Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien running at-large, former Denver Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez in District 2, lawyer Mike Johnson in east Denver’s District 3 and Urban League executive Landri Taylor in northeast Denver’s District 4.

The remaining $35,389 raised went to candidates who are critical of the current administration’s focus on school choice, teacher accountability and data-driven decision-making and who have promised to push the district’s emphasis more to neighborhood schools. Those candidates are software company manager Michael Kiley in the at-large race, community organizer Rosario C. de Baca in District 2, activist and school volunteer Meg Schomp in District 3 and water engineer Roger Kilgore in District 4.

A third candidate in the at-large race, Joan Poston, does not fall into either camp. She has also not established a campaign committee and is not raising any money from outside donors.

Here’s a breakdown of how much money each candidate has raised since October 15:

At-large

  • Kiley – Raised $3,989 in this reporting period, bringing his total to $36,469. He spent $4,078 during the period, leaving him with $8,567 on-hand.
  • O’Brien – Raised $17, 975 during the reporting period, bringing her fundraising total to $191,299, the largest any single candidate has raised in the campaign. She spent $60,332 since October 15, leaving her with $5,918 on-hand.
  • Poston – She doesn’t have a campaign committee and reported spending $311 of her own money.

District 2

  • C. de Baca – Raised $5,170 in the past two and a half weeks, brining her total to $23,335 over the course of the campaign. She spent $6,529 during the reporting period and has $10,224 on-hand. She also received $579 in non-monetary contributions.
  • Rodriguez – Raised $30,040 since October 15, the largest amount raised by a candidate in the reporting period. That brings her total contributions to $117, 760. She spent $31,355 in the period and has $27,294 on-hand.

District 3

  • Johnson – Raised $27,619 in the reporting period, which brings his total fundraising take to $173,754, second only to O’Brien. He spent $52,873 during the period and has $16,711 on-hand.
  • Schomp – Raised $14,220 since October 15, the largest fundraising take of any of the candidates critical of the current administration. That brings her total to $46,169. She also received $579 in non-monetary contributions. She spent $14,052 during the period and has $3,783 on-hand.

District 4

  • Kilgore — Raised $12,010 during the reporting period, bringing his total to $45,279. Kilgore also received $1,079 in non-monetary contributions. He spent $18,366 and has $3,241 on-hand.
  • Taylor – Raised $37,946 since October 15, bringing his total fundraising levels to $110,051. Taylor also received $498 in non-monetary contributions. He spent $37,622 and has $15,002 on-hand.

The largest single donations came from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which gave $12,000 to Schomp, $7,000 to Kilgore and $4,000 to C. de Baca, as well as non-monetary contributions for staff support and event expenses to all four.

But the candidates who support the administration benefited from large donations from a variety of advocacy organizations and wealthy donors from Colorado and out-of-state. Democrats for Education Reform’s Colorado political committee gave O’Brien, Rodriguez and Taylor $2,000 each, while Stand for Children Colorado gave O’Brien, Johnson and Taylor $1,800 each.

Houston hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, his wife Laura and their foundation gave a combined $23,900 to the four candidates, while Katherine Bradley, the president of the Washington, D.C.-based education philanthropy CityBridge Foundation gave a combined $6,500 to the group.

Locally, Pat Hamill of Oakwood Homes gave Rodriguez, Johnson and Taylor a combined $18,000. Denver Art Museum president Cathey Finlon gave O’Brien and Johnson each $500 and gave $1,000 to both Taylor and Rodriguez.

Fundraising in the district board race appears to be proceeding at a similar pace to the 2011 board races. Candidates this year raised more money in the second filing round than they did in 2011, but overall fundraising levels are a bit less than they were at this point in the 2011 race, when candidates had raised around $790,000.

Candidates will file campaign finance reports one final time, after next week’s election.

Contributions in other districts

In Jefferson County, an independent committee named Believe in Better Schools reported spending $22,804, most of it in support of candidates that have been endorsed by the county Republican Party. Those include Julie Williams, John Newkirk and Ken Witt.

Spending was on newspaper and social media advertising and on direct mail.

The group received its funding from Jeffco Students First Action, a group that has been critical of district policies but which itself doesn’t have to report its contributors.

Here’s a breakdown of total direct contributions to candidates:

District 1 — Tonya Aultman-Bettridge reported $23,749, plus $3,300 in loans. Williams has total contributions of $5,756.

District 2 – Newkirk has raised $4,785 while Jeff Lamontagne has raised $55,539, including a small contribution from the Jefferson County Education Association Small Donor Committee and $8,166 from the Public Education Committee, an affiliate of the Colorado Education Association.

District 5 – Witt has raised $11,037 while Gordan Van de Water has raised $37,395.

Races for three seats in the Grand Junction-based Mesa 51 district have a partisan tone, with county Republicans endorsing a slate of candidates and out-of-district conservative donors providing funding for those candidates.

In the latest reporting period, GOP-endorsed candidates each received $2,000 contributions from Ralph Nagel, president of Top Rock LLC, a Denver-based investment company, and a strong supporter of school choice. Nagel also has provided substantial donations to conservative board candidates in Douglas County.

The Mesa GOP candidates, Patrick Kanda, Michael Lowenstein and John Sluder, each previously received $5,000 from C. Edward McVaney of Greenwood Village, a retired software company owner. McVaney is on the board of ACE Scholarships and was a founder of Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch.

Despite the out-of-district donations, opponents of those three candidates lead in overall fundraising. Here’s the rundown:

In District C, Kanda has raised $7,344 compared to $11,046 for John Williams, who’s received support from the Mesa Valley Education Association, the local union. A third candidate, Lonnie White, hasn’t filed any financial reports.

In District D, Lowenstein has raised $9,143, trailing opponent Tom Parrish’s $12,367.

In District E, Sluder has raised $8,101 compared to $8,627 for opponent Greg Mokolai. He’s also received help from the Mesa Valley teachers union.

Nagel and McVaney also have donated to candidates in the Thompson school district, where a group named Liberty Watch is backing Donna Rice, Bryce Carlson, Rocci Bryan and Carl Langer.

Those candidates have raised a total of $33,150, with $26,000 of that from McVaney and Nagel.

The other candidates, Lori Ward, Gerald Lauer and incumbents Jeff Berg and Janice Marchman, have raised a total of $15,002. Some of them have received support from union committees.

This post has been updated to add information about fundraising in other districts and about individual donors. 

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.