If history, voter registration and fund raising are any indications, the State Board of Education after Tuesday’s election will look similar to the board that’s been operating for the last two years.
The board has four Republicans and three Democrats now, and most observers expect those numbers won’t change, but there will be at least two new faces in seats that are being vacated.
The new group faces major tasks in the next year, including the hiring of a new commissioner, implementation of the educator effectiveness law and selection of a new testing system.
And the new board will face a changed political landscape, with a new governor and possible changes in party control at the legislature.
Here are snapshots of candidates in this year’s races:
Kaye Ferry (R) – A businesswoman and active party member, she also served 19 years as executive director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association. (Website)
Angelika Schroeder (D) – An accountant and former Boulder School Board member and college professor, Schroeder was named to the board in 2008 to fill a vacancy and is on the ballot for the first time. (Website)
Karl Beck (D) – The Colorado Springs resident is studying to be a teacher and has worked in the non-profit sector. (Website)
Paul Lundeen (R) – A businessman and investment advisor from Monument, Lundeen also has worked in politics and journalism. (Website)
Debora Scheffel (R) – A resident of Parker, Scheffel has extensive education experience and specializations in literacy, special education and assessment. She’s a special assistant to the commissioner for literacy, dean of the school of education at Jones International University and formerly taught at the University of Northern Colorado. (Website)
William Townend (D) – A retired medical researcher who started his career as a teacher, Townend lives in Aurora. (Website)
History of SBE races
State board races are generally low-profile affairs, with very modest campaign spending and little visibility for many voters. (For example, in 2008 273,994 votes were cast for the two candidates in the race for the 6th District seat in the U.S. House, while 258,288 votes were case for the two SBE candidates in that district. There was a similar under vote in the 3rd District.)
Election results for SBE candidates historically mirror voter registration patterns in individual districts. A review of election results back to 1996 shows that Democrats have won every SBE election in the 2nd District, while Republicans always have won in the 5th and 6th districts. (District boundaries changed somewhat for the 2002 election because of the 2000 census.)
Among active registered voters, the 2nd District currently is 38 percent Democratic, while Republicans are at 47 percent in the 5th and 43 percent in the 6th. Unaffiliated voters are the second-largest group in all three districts.
In the last 16 years, all SBE incumbents who sought election (including those appointed between elections) were victorious.
This year, Schroeder, Lundeen and Scheffel lead in fundraising in their respective races (see this story for details).
Candidates on the issues
Education News Colorado surveyed the six candidates for their view on state education issues. Here’s a summary of what each said:
- School funding: “My first guess would be that education has a lot of waste in the system. … Education, like every other component of government, needs to take a long hard look at how it operates and cut back like everyone else.”
- Selecting a new commissioner: “There’s no need to move at record speed, it’s far more important to pick the right person. It will have to be someone unafraid to confront the status quo because we know that hasn’t worked.”
- Common Core Standards: Favors rescinding Colorado’s adoption.
- Testing: “Education has to be about more than that [testing] but it also must have some methods for measuring not only what the students are learning but how we stack up against other states and other countries.” Open to Colorado participation in a multi-state testing program.
- Race to the Top: Would want to review the criteria if the program is extended but generally is concerned about losing control to the federal government.
- School funding: She didn’t comment in detail because board members are defendants in the Lobato v. Colorado school funding lawsuit but did say she feels constitutional change probably will be required.
- Selecting a new commissioner: Wants a new commissioner who can continue Jones’ strong relationships with a wide variety of education groups and interests. “While there remain some areas of needed improvement and alignment, I do not support bringing in a new leader to take us in a new direction. The current efforts have not had enough time or work to see them through.”
- Common Core Standards: “Using common core standards for our students just makes sense.”
- Testing: Supports a new testing system that has shorter tests, faster results and both formative and summative tests. Supports including results on a student’s transcript. Supports participation in multi-state tests while reserving the option for Colorado to withdraw.
- Race to Top: Would support reapplying but only if district backing of the state plan is stronger than was the case with the last application.
- School funding: “I really don’t think that it is the amount of money that is spent per student as much as how it is spent.”
- Selecting a new commissioner: “The commissioner should have experience both in business and education. … I think the replacement should be found as soon as possible.”
- Common Core Standards: “I truly believe that there should be some common core standards that are taught to all students in math, science and language arts.”
- Testing: “We must also remember that some of us may know the curriculum in question but do poorly on tests. One solution may be to develop other ways to test our students.”
- Race to the Top: Supports applying if the program is continued.
- School funding: He says schools need to figure out how to “provide an increasing level of service when increased dollars aren’t necessarily available.”
- Selecting a new commissioner: “I would like to see a visionary who’s not afraid to challenge well-worn, shopworn conventional ideas.” He complimented Jones’ work but said, “Does that mean we stay exactly on the same path? Probably not.”
- Common Core Standards: “I believe that education should be local” and generally leans toward state standards.
- Testing: “Deserves more attention and study on my part.”
- Race to the Top: “We’re looking for funding wherever we can get it” but doesn’t want “to get sucked into some common denominator, a lower common denominator.”
Scheffel did not respond to EdNews’ questions. On her website she writes, “We must preserve what is best about public education and reform those aspects that do not serve our students and families well” and that focus needs to be placed on “parental choice and involvement, accountability, teacher empowerment and instructional excellence.”
In a May interview with the Colorado Statesman, Scheffel said she believes her special education background would be helpful on the board, supports the educator effectiveness law, wants to make sure the public is getting excellence in exchange for education funding and supports financial help for parents who place special needs children in non-public schools.
- School funding: “K-12 education is not adequately funded under the present structure. …
The best short-term solution is increasing operational efficiency. This should start with a complete and careful cost accounting, followed by a cost benefit analysis for all programs.”
- Selecting a new commissioner: “I would like to see a commissioner who is at least as committed to sensible change as Dr. Jones. I would like to see greater change. … I would certainly favor someone who would set individualization and use of 21st century technology as priorities.”
- Common Core Standards: Does not support state participation in the program.
- Testing: Supports quick turnaround testing that helps teachers work with students who are lagging and supports use of multi-state tests.
- Race to the Top: Favors reapplication only after a careful cost-benefit analysis.
All candidates who responded to the survey said they generally support the directions established by recent education reform legislation, including the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids, the Innovation Schools Act, the new district accountability system and the new educator effectiveness law. Townend expressed some concerns about the innovation schools and educator effectiveness laws.
About the SBE
The board has operated in relative public harmony since the 2008 election, which brought one newcomer, Republican Marcia Neal of the 3rd District, to the board. Democrats Elaine Gantz Berman of the 1st District and Jane Goff of the 7th District also were elected that year but had been appointed earlier to fill vacancies. Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District was elected in 2006.
Leaving the board are Peggy Littleton, R-5th District, after one full term and Randy DeHoff, R-6th District, vice chair, the board’s longest serving member and former head of the Charter School Institute. He was first elected in 1998.
Members are part-time, unpaid and can serve two six-year terms. (Map of districts.)