From the Statehouse

Colorado Commits tops $3 million in fundraising

Colorado Commits to Kids, the main campaign committee supporting Amendment 66, listed total contributions of $3.2 million in a report filed with the state Monday.

Stacks of cashThat total included $1.6 million raised since the previous report on Sept. 3. The committee reported spending $402,546 in the last two weeks.

The campaign’s news release quoted both Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in touting the new contributions.

“When we were approved for the ballot two weeks ago we promised to spend the next two months building our coalition and making the case to voters on why we should get behind Amendment 66,” Hickenlooper said in the statement. “The overwhelming financial support we’ve received in the last 14 days is a testament to donors’ belief that the reforms Amendment 66 will fund are targeted specifically to efforts to improve our classrooms and to making Colorado the number-one state in the nation for P-12 education.”

“If the voters pass Amendment 66, Colorado will become the educational model for every other state to follow,” Duncan said.

Amendment 66 would raise state income tax rates to generate an estimated $950 million in the first year to fund P-12 education. The revenue would be used to implement Senate Bill 13-213, which creates a new formula for allocating education funding, including increased spending on preschool and full-day kindergarten and more money for at-risk students and English language learners. (Get more details in the EdNews archive of stories about Amendment 66.)

Most of the funds raised in the last two weeks came from four contributors:

  • Ben Walton, a Denver architect and board member of the Walton Family Foundation, gave $500,000.
  • The Gary Community Investment Co. of Denver gave $500,000 on top of the $200,000 it contributed previously.
  • Education Reform Now gave $250,000. While the group is a national organization, it has a Colorado chapter and is closely affiliated with the local chapter of Democrats for Education Reform. Jen Walmer, DFER state director, had the final say on the contribution, according to spokeswoman Alicia Economos.
  • Fort Collins philanthropist Pat Stryker gave $250,000. A longtime funder of Democratic candidates and liberal causes, she previously gave $400,000.

Other contributors of note in the most recent period include:

  • DaVita Corp., the dialysis company, $100,000
  • James Kelley of Vestar Capital Partners, $10,000
  • Ken Gart of the Gart Companies, $5,000
  • David Youngren, president the Piton Foundation, $5,000

The Colorado Education Association has given $450,000 to the campaign during previous reporting periods.

Search the records

Major spending items in the latest period included $24,000 to the Denver political consulting firm OnSight Public Affairs. FieldWorks, a Washington-based campaign group, was paid $283,798, bringing its total payments to about $1 million. The company ran the petition-circulating campaign for Colorado Commits and now reportedly is organizing door-to-door canvassers for the campaign.

Colorado Commits also reported paying more than $56,000 to 20 people for “employee services.”

Among names of note on the payroll are Andrew Freedman, former chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, paid $6,012; top Hickenlooper aide Jamie Van Leeuwen, paid $4,879 for part-time campaign work while continuing to work part-time for the governor, and Colorado Association of School Executives lobbyist Elisabeth Rosen, paid $2,670.

Two aides to Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, also are working for the campaign. Damion LeeNatali was paid $4,636, and Will Gohl received $4,431. Johnston was the author of SB 13-213 and is constantly on the road campaigning for Amendment 66.

One of the registered opposition groups, Coloradans for Real Education Reform, reported total receipts of $10,000 and spending of $360. The sole donor was the Independence Institute, the conservative think tank and advocacy group.

The contribution and spending report for another opposition group, Coloradans Against Unions Using Kids as Pawns, hadn’t been filed as of early Monday evening. As of Sept. 3 that group had reported receipts of $7,200. Such reports are filed electronically, and committees have until midnight on deadline days to submit their documents.

Those two groups and Colorado Commits are organized as “issue” committees, meaning they have to file reports every two weeks leading up to the Nov. 5 election.

There’s been speculation in the political world that other types of committees, such as 527s, independent expenditure committees and others, may become involved in the Amendment 66 campaign. Independent expenditure and 527 committees have only one reporting deadline before the election, on Oct. 15, the same day that the first mail ballots are expected to go out to voters.

This article was updated on Sept. 19 to provide additional information about the Education Reform Now contribution.

power players

Who’s who in Indiana education: House Speaker Brian Bosma

PHOTO: Sarah Glen

Find more entries on education power players as they publish here.

Vitals: Republican representing District 88, covering parts of Marion, Hancock and Hamilton counties. So far, has served 31 years in the legislature, 9 of those as Speaker of the House. Bosma is a lawyer at the firm Kroger, Gardis & Regas.

Why he’s a power player: Bosma was House Speaker in 2011, when the state passed its large education reform package, creating the first voucher program for students from low-income families. Along with Rep. Bob Behning, Bosma helped develop the state’s voucher program bill as well as the bill that expanded charter school efforts that year. As a party and chamber leader, he plays a major role in setting House Republicans’ legislative agendas.

On toeing the party line: With the debate over state-funded preschool front and center during this year’s session, Bosma has expressed far more enthusiasm than his fellow Republicans for expanding the state’s program. Indeed, Bosma has long been a supporter of state-sponsored preschool. Currently, low-income families in five counties can apply for vouchers to use at high-quality preschool providers. Bosma has said he’d like to see that number triple, if not more.

Recent action: In 2016, Bosma ushered through one of the few teacher-focused bills that became law in the wake of news that some districts in the state were struggling to hire teachers. The bill created a state scholarship fund for prospective teachers, and began awarding money to students this year.

A perhaps little-known fact: In the late 1980s, Bosma worked at the Indiana Department of Education as the legislative adviser to H. Dean Evans, the state superintendent at that time. Then, as with this year’s House Bill 1005, lawmakers advocated to make the state superintendent an appointed position, a bill Bosma is carrying this year.

Who supports him: In past elections, Bosma has received campaign contributions from Education Networks of America, a private education technology company; Hoosiers for Quality Education, an advocacy group that supports school choice, charter schools and vouchers; Stand for Children, a national organization that supports education reform and helps parents to organize; K12, one of the largest online school providers in the country.

Conversely, given his support for choice-based reform, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education gave Bosma an “F” in its 2016 legislative report card highlighting who it thinks has been supportive of public schools.

Legislative highlights via Chalkbeat:

Bills in past years: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

Also check out our list of bills to watch this year.

getting to know you

Colorado Sen. Nancy Todd is making up for all the times she was quiet in school

PHOTO: Sarah Glen

Throughout the legislative session, Chalkbeat is asking members of the House and Senate education committees to share a little bit about themselves — and their legislative priorities. In this installment, meet Sen. Nancy Todd.

Nancy Todd, an Aurora Democrat, is a former social studies teacher who has spent her retirement — if you want to call it that — at the Capitol helping shape education policy.

Since 2005, Todd has played a role supporting — and opposing — some of the state’s most ambitious education policies as a member of both the state House and Senate.

One of her earlier bills created a stipend for teachers who earned National Board certification, a rigorous and widely respected training program for educators. More recently, Todd has been focused on reducing standardized testing and curbing the state’s teacher shortage.

Todd was a vocal opponent of Senate Bill 191, the state’s controversial 2010 teacher evaluation law. She has regularly supported reversing provisions of the law, including a failed attempt this year to create more flexibility in how student data is used to evaluate teachers.

Get to know a little more about Todd here:

What is your favorite memory from school?

PHOTO: Nancy Todd
State Sen. Todd in the first grade.

I think one of my favorite memories was my fifth grade teacher. He was my first male teacher, and he inspired me to be creative and think outside the box. Being the daughter of a superintendent, I always appreciated those teachers who treated me as an individual, not their “boss’s daughter.”

Were you the teacher’s pet or class clown?
Neither. I was actually pretty quiet and followed the rules. Guess I’m making up for it now.

What was your favorite subject and why?
I loved American Government because I had a great teacher who was unconventional and allowed different views and lively discussions. He taught me a lot about respecting others’ opinions and how different leaders of our country were all instrumental in doing good for our citizens, using different approaches.

If you could give yourself one high school superlative it would be:
I was considered “Miss Priss” because I didn’t wear jeans like some of my friends did. I was kidded for being “prim and proper.”

What clubs or sports did you participate in high school?
Pep club, journalism, Quill & Scroll, girls sports

What would your perfect school look like?
An ideal school is where there is a high level of innovation, creativity, opportunity for teachers and students to interact with authentic and respectful relationships. Where learning is based on relevant learning environment and a balance of technology, live role models teachers who are highly qualified and LOVE working with students.

What are you legislative priorities?
Resolve ninth-grade testing question; expand counseling; reasonable school finance proposal.