Who Is In Charge

Stand favors Dems with contributions

The advocacy group Stand for Children endorses both Democrats and Republicans, but when it comes to campaign contributions, one party gets the bulk of the cash.

Election 2012 LogoStand has endorsed six Democrats and five Republicans in 2012 legislative races, but 89 percent of contributions by the Stand for Children Small Donor Committee have gone to Democratic candidates, according to state campaign finance filings.

The committee earlier this month reported $27,000 in contributions to the 11 candidates that Stand had endorsed earlier.

The Democrats received $4,000 each, including Sen. Mary Hodge (District 25), Sen. Linda Newell (District 26), and Senate candidate Crestina Martinez (District 35). Also receiving that amount were Reps. Pete Lee (District 18), Dave Young (District 50) and Millie Hamner (District 61).

In contrast, two Republican Senate candidates received only $750 apiece, Lang Sias in District 19 and Ken Summers in District 22. Three House candidates each received $500, including Brian Watson (District 3), Rick Enstrom (District 23) and Amy Attwood (District 28).

Democrats for Education Reform, which often allies with Stand on legislative policy issues, had donated to four of the same candidates, Hamner, Lee, Newell and Young. Each received $400. DFER, of course, endorses Democrats.

The DFER Small Donor Committee also gave $400 to Democrat Brittany Petterson, Attwood’s opponent in a hotly contest Lakewood district.

Big-money races

Stand, DFER and political committees related to the Colorado Education Association and its local affiliates all have contributed – mostly to Democrats – in five of the best-funded legislative contests this election.

Here’s a look at those races:

House District 3 (Arapahoe County) – Total raised: $452,875. Democratic Rep. Daniel Kagan $197,648; Watson $255,776.

Senate District 19 (Jefferson County) – Total raised: $331,967. Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak (a member of the Senate Education Committee), $212,648; Sias $119,319.

Senate District 26 (Arapahoe County) – Total raised $318,392. Newell $212,674; Republican David Kerber $105,718.

Senate District 22 (Jefferson County) – Total raised $312,660. Democrat Andy Kerr, $185,185; Summers, $127,475. Kerr and Summers are currently state representatives and were members of the House Education Committee during the last session.

House District 18 (El Paso County) – Total raised $310,127. Lee, $147,700; Republican Jennifer George, $162,427.

The direct contributions to candidate committees, of course, don’t reflect the full picture of spending in the battleground races that are expected to determine control of the legislature next year.

Independent expenditure and 527 committees, which are supposed to operate independently of candidates, have spent tens of thousands of dollars, much of it on “attack” campaign materials. Such independent spending is dominated by committees allied with the Democratic Party, and those committees receive funding from a wide variety of sources, including business groups, teachers union committees and even groups allied with education reform interests.

Latest campaign finance miscellanea

Contribution reports by education-related political committees were fairly light for the Oct. 29 deadline. Here are some highlights:

The AFT of Colorado Small Donor Committee gave $2,000 to Tracy Kraft-Tharp, the Democratic candidate who’s challenging GOP Rep. Robert Ramirez in District 29. Democrats have been pushing hard to unseat Ramirez, a member of House Education.

The Boulder Valley Education Association Small Donor Committee gave $250 each to Kraft-Tharp, Democratic candidate Emily Tracy in Senate District 8 and State Board of Education incumbent Angelika Schroeder, who represents the 2nd District.

Educators for Public Education, the CEA-related political action committee, give $400 each to Tracy, Democratic candidate Dianne Primavera in House District 33 and Democratic Rep. Cherilyn Peniston in District 35. Peniston is a veteran member of House Education.

The Pueblo Education Association Small Donor Committee gave $2,000 each to Kerr and to Democratic Rep. Max Tyler, who’s running against Enstrom in District 23.

The Public Education Committee, the main small-donor arm of the CEA, gave $1,000 to Democratic school board member Joanne Baxter, running in District 57.

The Stand for Children Small Donor Committee made its contributions during the Sept. 27-Oct. 10 reporting period and reported no additional giving in the most recent period, which included activity from Oct. 10 to Oct. 24.

Monday was the last finance reporting deadline before the Nov. 6 election for candidates and committees that donate to candidates. Final reports are due Dec. 6, a month after winners and losers will have been decided.

Committees involved in campaigns for school district tax proposals have one last reporting deadline before the election, on Friday.

Raise your voice

Memphis, what do you want in your next school superintendent?

PHOTO: Kyle Kurlick for Chalkbeat

Tennessee’s largest school district needs a permanent leader. What kind of superintendent do you think Shelby County Schools should be looking for?

Now is the chance to raise your voice. The school board is in the thick of finalizing a national search and is taking bids from search firms. Board members say they want a leader to replace former superintendent Dorsey Hopson in place within 18 months. They have also said they want community input in the process, though board members haven’t specified what that will look like. In the interim, career Memphis educator Joris Ray is at the helm.

Let us know what you think is most important in the next superintendent.  Select responses will be published.

Asking the candidates

How to win over Northwest Side voters: Chicago aldermen candidates hone in on high school plans

PHOTO: Cassie Walker Burke / Chalkbeat Chicago
An audience member holds up a green sign showing support at a forum for Northwest side aldermanic candidates. The forum was sponsored by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

The residents filing into the auditorium of Sharon Christa McAuliffe Elementary School Friday wanted to know a few key things from the eager aldermanic candidates who were trying to win their vote.

People wanted to know which candidates would build up their shrinking open-enrollment high schools and attract more students to them.

They also wanted specifics on how the aldermen, if elected, would coax developers to build affordable housing units big enough for families, since in neighborhoods such as Logan Square and Hermosa, single young adults have moved in, rents have gone up, and some families have been pushed out.

As a result, some school enrollments have dropped.

Organized by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Friday’s event brought together candidates from six of the city’s most competitive aldermanic races. Thirteen candidates filled the stage, including some incumbents, such as Aldermen Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st  Ward), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward), and Milly Santiago (31st Ward).

They faced tough questions — drafted by community members and drawn at random from a hat — about bolstering high school enrollment, recruiting more small businesses, and paving the way for more affordable housing.

When the audience members agreed with their positions, they waved green cards, with pictures of meaty tacos. When they heard something they didn’t like, they held up red cards, with pictures of fake tacos.

Red cards weren’t raised much. But the green cards filled the air when candidates shared ideas for increasing the pull of area open-enrollment high schools by expanding dual-language programs and the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Related: Can a program designed for British diplomats fix Chicago schools? 

“We want our schools to be dual language so people of color can keep their roots alive and keep their connections with their families,” said Rossana Rodriguez, a mother of a Chicago Public Schools’ preschooler and one of challengers to incumbent Deb Mell in the city’s 33rd Ward.  

Mell didn’t appear at the forum, but another candidate vying for that seat did: Katie Sieracki, who helps run a small business. Sieracki said she’d improve schools by building a stronger feeder system between the area’s elementary schools, which are mostly K-8, and the high schools.

“We need to build bridges between our local elementary schools and our high schools, getting buy-in from new parents in kindergarten to third grade, when parents are most engaged in their children’s education,” she said.

Sieracki said she’d also work to design an apprenticeship program that connects area high schools with small businesses.

Green cards also filled the air when candidates pledged to reroute tax dollars that are typically used for developer incentives for school improvement instead.

At the end of the forum, organizers asked the 13 candidates to pledge to vote against new tax increment financing plans unless that money went to schools. All 13 candidates verbally agreed.

Aldermen have limited authority over schools, but each of Chicago’s 50 ward representatives receives a $1.32 million annual slush fund that be used for ward improvements, such as playgrounds, and also can be directed to education needs. And “aldermanic privilege,” a longtime concept in Chicago, lets representatives give the thumbs up or down to developments like new charters or affordable housing units, which can affect school enrollment.

Related: 7 questions to ask your aldermanic candidates about schools

Aldermen can use their position to forge partnerships with organizations and companies that can provide extra support and investment to local schools.

A January poll showed that education was among the top three concerns of voters in Chicago’s municipal election. Several candidates for mayor have recently tried to position themselves as the best candidate for schools in TV ads.