Who Is In Charge

Two major bills finally move

The Senate Tuesday gave final approval to the educator identifier bill and to the proposal to create a statewide dual enrollment system.

Text of Monday story follows:

The Senate Monday night gave preliminary approval to House Bill 09-1065, the proposal to create an identifier system for principals and teachers.

Senators also gave preliminary approval to House Bill 09-1319, the measure to create a standard statewide dual enrollment system under which high school students could simultaneously work toward diplomas and associates’ degrees. The system would replace three existing programs that aren’t available to all students.

The idea behind the educator identifiers is that they can be used in conjunction with other data, such as individual student performance, to evaluate teacher performance, the effectiveness of teacher training programs and the distribution of high-performing teachers in different kinds of schools.

The bill, developed by an advisory group named the Teacher Quality Commission, originally was proposed as a pilot program in a few districts so the Department of Education could evaluate use of the identifiers. A major goal was to gain data about the “teacher gap” – the problem of low-performing schools being disproportionately served by inexperienced teachers.

But, HB 09-1065 gained more importance after announcement of the federal stimulus program, with its emphasis on education reform. Creation of a statewide identifier program is now seen as a way to improve Colorado’s chances for stimulus money.

And, the bill set up something of a tussle between the governor’s office, CDE officials and other researchers and the Colorado Education Association over use of the data. Researchers want maximum flexibility to use the data, while teachers’ groups want protections to ensure that teachers aren’t evaluated or disciplined solely on the basis of student test scores.

Negotiations, which also involved the Denver Public Schools, went through several fits and starts, but an amendment approved by the Senate Education Committee two weeks ago has the support of CDE, the governor’s office and CEA and other education groups.

The language allows use of the data for research, contains various protections but doesn’t restrict districts from continuing to use existing data systems and programs in evaluation, assignment and compensation of educators.

If passed on final consideration the bill will have to return to the House for agreement on amendments. The bill was still just a pilot program when it passed out of the House.

As it now stands, CDE would start the program with just a few districts, but the identifier program would be expanded statewide when education officials felt it was ready.

It could be a couple of years or more before it’s operational. Private or federal funds will have to be raised to fund it, and state data systems will need upgrading for the program to work.

Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster
Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster

Consideration of the dual enrollment bill got bogged down with several minor amendments and an argument sparked by Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, about language asking the dual enrollment advisory board to study how to involve home-schooled students in the program. Hudak wanted to language deleted, but the Senate rejected her amendment. Several education committee members praised the bill, including Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, who said, “This is one of the most significant education bills of the session … a tremendous step forward.”

Earlier in the day the House gave final approval to a companion measures, Senate Bill 09-285. It would include career and technical education programs in the overall dual enrollment system.

Follow the money

Final Denver school board campaign finance reports show who brought in the most late money

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Victoria Tisman, 8, left, works with paraprofessional Darlene Ontiveros on her Spanish at Bryant-Webster K-8 school in Denver.

Final campaign finance reports for this year’s hard-fought Denver school board elections are in, and they show a surge of late contributions to Angela Cobián, who was elected to represent southwest Denver and ended up bringing in more money than anyone else in the field.

The reports also showed the continued influence of independent groups seeking to sway the races. Groups that supported candidates who favor Denver Public Schools’ current direction raised and spent far more than groups that backed candidates looking to change things.

No independent group spent more during the election than Raising Colorado, which is affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform. In the week and a half before the Nov. 7 election, it spent $126,985. That included nearly $57,000 to help elect Rachele Espiritu, an incumbent supportive of the district’s direction who lost her seat representing northeast Denver to challenger Jennifer Bacon. Raising Colorado spent $13,765 on mail opposing Bacon in that same period.

Teachers union-funded committees also were active in the campaign.

Individually, Cobián raised more money in the days before the election than the other nine candidates combined. She pulled in $25,335 between Oct. 30 and Dec. 2.

That includes a total of $11,000 from three members of the Walton family that founded Walmart: Jim, Alice and Steuart. The Waltons have over the years invested more than $1 billion in education-related causes, including the creation of charter schools.

Total money raised, spent by candidates
  • Angela Cobián: $123,144, $105,200
    Barbara O’Brien: $117,464, $115,654
    Mike Johnson: $106,536, $103,782
    Rachele Espiritu: $94,195, $87,840
    Jennifer Bacon: $68,967, $67,943
    Carrie A. Olson: $35,470, $35,470
    Robert Speth: $30,635, $31,845
    “Sochi” Gaytan: $28,977, $28,934
    Tay Anderson: $18,766, $16,865
    Julie Bañuelos: $12,962, $16,835

Cobián was supported in her candidacy by donors and groups that favor the district’s brand of education reform, which includes collaborating with charter schools. In the end, Cobián eclipsed board vice president Barbara O’Brien, who had been leading in contributions throughout the campaign, to raise the most money overall: a total of $123,144.

The two candidates vying to represent central-east Denver raised about $5,000 each in the waning days of the campaign. Incumbent Mike Johnson pulled in $5,300, including $5,000 from Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz. Teacher Carrie A. Olson, who won the seat, raised $4,946 from a host of donors, none of whom gave more than $500 during that time period.

The other candidates raised less than $5,000 each between Oct. 30 and Dec. 2.

O’Brien, who staved off two competitors to retain her seat representing the city at-large, spent the most in that period: $31,225. One of her competitors, Julie Bañuelos, spent the least.

money matters

In election of big spending, winning Aurora candidates spent less but got outside help

Four new board members, Kyla Armstrong-Romero, Marques Ivey, Kevin Cox and Debbie Gerkin after they were sworn in. (Photo courtesy of Aurora Public Schools)

A slate of Aurora school board candidates that won election last month were outspent by some of their rival campaigns — including in the final days of the race — but benefited from big spending by a union-backed independent committee.

Outside groups that backed the winning slate spent more overall during the campaign, but wound down as pro-education reform groups picked up their spending in the last period right before the election. Those efforts were not enough to push their candidates to victory.

According to the last campaign finance reports turned in on Thursday and covering activity from Oct. 26 through Dec. 2, Gail Pough and Miguel Lovato spent the most from their individual contributions.

Together Pough and Lovato spent more than $7,000 on calls, canvassing and consulting fees. Both candidates were supported by reform groups and had been reporting the most individual contributions in previous campaign finance reports.

But it was the slate of candidates endorsed by the teachers union — Kevin Cox, Debbie Gerkin, Kyla Armstrong-Romero and Marques Ivey — that prevailed on election night.

How much did candidates raise, spend?

  • Gail Pough, $12,756.32; $12,328.81
  • Lea Steed, $1,965.00; $1,396.16
  • Kyla Armstrong Romero, $7,418.83; $3,606.12
  • Kevin Cox, $2,785.54; $2,993.07
  • Miguel Lovato, $16,856.00; $16,735.33
  • Jane Barber, $1,510.32; $1,510.32
  • Debbie Gerkin, $4,690.00; $4,516.21
  • Marques Ivey, $5,496.50; $5,638.57
  • Barbara Yamrick, did not file

The slate members spent varying amounts in the last few days before the election. For instance, Cox, who won the most votes, spent $403 while Ivey who recorded the fewest votes of the four winning candidates, spent $2,056.

Most of the slate candidates’ spending went to Facebook ads and consulting fees.

The four also reported large amounts in non-monetary contributions. Collectively, the slate members reported about $76,535 in non-monetary contributions, mostly from union funds, to cover in-kind mail, polling, office space and printing. All four also reported a non-monetary contribution in the form of a robocall from the Arapahoe County Democratic Party.

Other financial support for candidates, through independent expenditure committees, showed that the group Every Student Succeeds which was backed by union dollars and was supporting the union slate, spent less in the last days than the reform groups Raising Colorado and Families First Colorado which were supporting Pough and Lovato.

Overall, the independent expenditure committee groups spent more than $419,000 trying to sway Aurora voters.

Incumbent Barbara Yamrick failed to file any campaign finance reports throughout the campaign.

This story has been updated to include more information about in-kind contributions to the union-backed candidates.