Who Is In Charge

Fresh union money goes to Democrats

Nearly $133,000 in contributions from teachers’ union political committees flowed to the campaigns of Democratic legislative candidates in August, according to campaign finance reports filed Tuesday.

Election 2012 LogoThat’s on top of about $128,000 in contributions listed as of the previous reporting deadline on Aug. 1. The latest filings covered contributions made from July 27 through Aug. 29.

The new reports marked the entry of two new groups into the 2012 campaign – the AFT Colorado Federation of Teachers, School, Health and Public Employees Small Donor Committee and the DCTA Fund, a small donor committee associated with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association.

And the latest reports also contained the first union spending in a district tax proposal campaign. The Jefferson County Education Association Small Donor Committee reported a $10,000 donation to Citizens for Jeffco Schools, the primary backer of the proposed $99 million bond issue and $39 million operating funds increase that’s on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The Public Education Committee, the well-funded small donor committee associated with the Colorado Education Association, reported contributing $209,500 in the most recent period. Some $44,500 of that went to Democratic legislative candidates, with another $5,250 going to Democrats seeking seats on the State Board of Education and the University of Colorado Board of Regents.

A total of $155,000 went to three Democratic “independent expenditure” committees, groups that can support or oppose candidates but can’t coordinate with candidate committees. Those three groups are the Community Information Project, the Coalition for Colorado’s Future and the Colorado Accountable Government Alliance.

Inside the latest reports

Here are snapshots of the most recent contributions by union-affiliated political committees. Much of the money went to tight races in Jefferson County and elsewhere whose outcomes could determine which party controls the legislature in 2013-14.

In many cases the contributions are in addition to money given by union committees during earlier reporting periods.

AFT Small Donor Committee – The group give $6,000 to the Colorado Democratic Party and $2,000 each to the following candidates: Rep. Andy Kerr (Senate District 22), Sen. Linda Newell (District 26), Sen. Evie Hudak (District 28), Rep. Pete Lee (District 18), Rep. Daniel Kagan (District 3) and Dave Young (House District 50). Contributions of $1,000 each went to 11 other Democratic candidates, and donations of $500 or less to 31 others. (See a list here and the second part here.)

Public Education Committee – The group’s biggest donation was $4,500 to Emily Tracy, who is challenging GOP Rep. Randy Baumgardner in District 8, which sprawls across most of northwestern Colorado. Fourteen Democrats got contributions of $2,250, including Brittany Pettersen, who’s trying to hold central Lakewood’s District 28 seat for the Democrats, as well as Kerr, Newell, Lee and Kagan. Also receiving $2,250 was Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Summit County, a former superintendent who’s battling in the state’s only serious three-way race this year. Hudak got $2,000. The committee gave 13 other Democrats contributions of between $250 and $1,000 apiece. (See full list here.)

DCTA Fund – The committee gave $5,000 to the Colorado Democratic Party and $2,000 apiece to Kerr and Hudak, who are running in two of the tightest Senate races this year. Smaller contributions went to 12 other Democrats.

District Twelve Educators Association Political Action Committee – The group gave $500 each to 15 Democratic candidates, including Hudak. Because it’s a PAC, not a small donor committee, the group has lower contribution limits.

JCEA Small Donor Committee – In addition to the $10,000 for Jeffco’s proposed school bond and operating tax increases, the group gave $4,399 to Hudak and $2,000 to Pettersen.

Among smaller contributions, the Boulder Valley Education Association Small Donor Committee gave $1,000 each to Mike Foote, Lee Kemp and Rep. Matt Jones and $500 to Rep. Jonathan Singer, all running in Boulder County districts. The Pueblo County Teachers’ Association Small Donor Committee gave $500 each to House candidates Chuck Rodosevich and Leroy Garcia, both running in Pueblo County districts.

Lots of cash left in the bank

Education-related groups have plenty of money left in the bank for the rest of the campaign season.

Education News Colorado reviewed “ending balance” figures for 13 union-related political committees and came up with a total of $718,156. The largest individual amounts are the the DCTA Fund ($202,531), Public Education Committee ($197,734), the District Twelve Committee ($74,221), the JCEA committee ($72,201) and the St. Vrain Valley Education Association Small Donor Committee ($38,838). The AFT committee has $22,633 on hand.

The DCTA and the AFT may be considering non-candidate spending. A $466 million DPS bond issue and a $49 million operating increase are on the ballot in Denver this year. The district’s agreement with the union includes a raise for teachers if the operating increase is approved. And Douglas County is the AFT’s base in Colorado, with a conservative school board that is considering ballot measures to further diminish the union’s role in the district.

Another CEA-related group, Educators for Public Education, has $86,593 in the bank. As a “political committee,” it faces tighter limits on candidate contributions than small donor committees have.

Committees affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform and Stand for Children haven’t yet made legislative contributions but are expected to do so later. Stand recently endorsed candidates, and DFER plans to endorse later this month.

The next campaign finance reporting deadline is Sept. 17.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.