Head of Colorado school executives group announces state board bid

Lisa Escárcega, head of the Colorado Association of School Executives, plans to run to represent Denver on the State Board of Education next year.

Escárcega, who has represented the interests of superintendents and principals since 2016, announced Wednesday that she would retire in June 2020 and seek the State Board of Education seat currently held by Val Flores.

Both women are Democrats and would compete in a primary.

“Having had the opportunity at CASE to deepen my perspective and expertise about statewide education issues, this feels like a natural next step and would allow me to continue my work in public education,” Escárcega wrote in a statement posted to the organization’s website.

She could not be reached for an interview Wednesday.

Escárcega started her career as a school psychologist and served for many years as the chief accountability and research officer in Aurora Public Schools.

Her campaign website says her priorities as a state board member would be creating a more “balanced” accountability system that puts less emphasis on standardized tests, expanding preschool access, and maintaining school district control over issues like safety policies and health education. She said she would work with districts to raise teacher pay and simplify the licensure process to address Colorado’s teacher shortage.

Flores, a longtime Denver educator with union backing, was elected in 2014 in an upset against a better funded candidate supported by education reform groups. She has also been a testing skeptic on the seven-member State Board of Education.

Flores said she looked forward to a spirited primary.

State board members serve six-year terms. The state board appoints the commissioner of education, sets state standards, and handles charter school appeals, requests for waivers from state regulations, teacher licensure, and the administration of many grants approved by the legislature.

The state board also oversees improvement efforts in districts and schools that have struggled to raise student achievement for years on end. Last year, the state board ordered the Adams 14 district to hand over control to an external manager, a move that critics characterized as privatization.

“I do not support any attempt to privatize schools or districts,” Escárcega wrote on her campaign website.