A longstanding Denver student and parent group that is expanding its political power has made its first-ever candidate endorsements. The Padres & Jóvenes Unidos Action Fund has endorsed Tay Anderson, Radhika Nath, and Brad Laurvick for Denver school board.

Out of a field of nine candidates, Anderson, Nath, and Laurvick stood out partly for their personal experience with Denver Public Schools, said Elsa Oliva Rocha, executive director of the action fund. Anderson is a Manual High School graduate who now works at North High School as a restorative justice coordinator. Nath and Laurvick are parents of current students.

Although some of their opponents are also parents and former students, Oliva Rocha said the willingness of these three candidates to make change caused them to rise to the top.

“Being able to put our community first was the theme throughout this whole process,” Oliva Rocha said of the endorsement process. “A lot of our community folks that are members, especially parents and young folks, are tired of hearing the same thing.”

To be considered for the Padres & Jóvenes endorsement, candidates had to sign on to the action fund’s platform, Oliva Rocha said. It includes investing in “high-quality, culturally affirming neighborhood and community schools,” increasing mental health services in all schools, and committing to schools that are free of police and immigration enforcement agents.

An 11-member committee that included recent Denver Public Schools graduates, young professionals who graduated from the district, and parents of current elementary and middle school students made the decision, Oliva Rocha said. The committee members interviewed the candidates and voted on the three they wanted to endorse, she said.

Many committee members are from southwest Denver, a region that has historically been home to lots of Latino families. Rising housing prices are pushing many families out of the region, which is causing local schools to lose both students and funding.

Padres & Jóvenes Unidos for more than 25 years has advocated for better bilingual education, less punitive student discipline policies, and healthier school meals in Denver Public Schools. Earlier this year, it formed the Padres & Jóvenes Unidos Action Fund, which is a separate type of organization under the tax code that can endorse political candidates.

The action fund has an independent expenditure committee that can spend an unlimited amount of money in elections but cannot coordinate with the candidates themselves. Oliva Rocha said the action fund plans to spend money in the Denver school board races.

The action fund endorsed the same candidates as the Colorado Working Families Party, which announced its picks last week. Its endorsements also somewhat overlap with those of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which is also backing Anderson for the at-large seat and Laurvick for the seat representing northwest Denver. For the seat representing southeast Denver, however, the union chose candidate Scott Baldermann over Nath.

The action fund’s picks differ completely from the endorsements of Students for Education Reform and Stand for Children, which have historically backed candidates who favor district reforms such as collaborating with publicly funded but independently run charter schools.

The election is Nov. 5. Here’s an alphabetical list of all the candidates running.

At-large

Tay Anderson
Natela Manuntseva
Alexis Menocal Harrigan

Northwest Denver, District 5

Julie Bañuelos
Tony Curcio
Brad Laurvick

Southeast Denver, District 1

Scott Baldermann
Radhika Nath
Diana Romero Campbell