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.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”

Civil action

Detroit school board to protesters: Please remain civil. Protesters to school board: You’re naive

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit activist Helen Moore speaks with her supporters from the stage at Mumford High School. Her removal from the auditorium prompted loud objections that led to the meeting's abrupt ending.

A day after the Detroit school board abruptly ended a meeting that was disrupted by protesters, the meeting is being rescheduled, while the board president is making an appeal for civility.

“The board is extremely disappointed that the regularly scheduled meeting tonight was adjourned early due to extreme disruptive behavior from several audience members,” school board president Iris Taylor wrote in a statement issued late Tuesday, several hours after the meeting’s chaotic end.

“It is our hope moving forward that the community will remain civil and respectful of the elected Board and the process to conduct public meetings. We must be allowed to conduct the business the community elected us to do.”

The drama Tuesday night came from a large group of parents and community members, led by activist Helen Moore, who packed the board meeting to raise concerns about a number of issues.

Moore had sent the school board an email requesting an opportunity to address the meeting Tuesday on issues including her strong objection to the news that Taylor and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti had attended a meeting with Mayor Mike Duggan and leaders of city charter schools to discuss the possibility of working together.

The mayor, in his state of the city address last week, discussed the meeting, calling it “almost historic,” and said district and charter school leaders had agreed to collaborate on a student transportation effort, and on a school rating system that would assign letter grades to Detroit district and charter schools.

When Taylor told Moore during the meeting that she would not be allowed to give her presentation Tuesday night, saying she had not gotten Moore’s request in time to put it on Tuesday’s agenda, Moore and her supporters angrily shouted at the board and proceeded to heckle and object to statements during the meeting.

The meeting was ultimately ended during a discussion about the Palmer Park Preparatory Academy, a school whose classes are being relocated to other district buildings for the rest of the year because of urgent roof repairs and the possibility of mold in the building.

As Moore shouted over Vitti’s discussion about the school, Taylor ordered that the 81-year-old activist be escorted from the Mumford High School auditorium where the meeting was being held. That triggered an angry response from her supporters and ultimately brought the meeting to a close.

The current Detroit school board came into existence a little over a year ago when the state returned city schools to Detroiters after years of control by state-appointed emergency managers.

The board’s swearing-in last January was heralded as a fresh start for a new district — now called the Detroit Public Schools Community District — that had been freed from years of debts encumbered by the old Detroit Public Schools.

Since then, meetings have been interrupted by the occasional heckler or protester, but they’ve largely remained orderly, without a lot of the noise and drama that had been typical of school board meetings in the past.

In her statement Tuesday night, Taylor lamented that the new school board wasn’t able to get to most of the items on its agenda.

“Detroiters have fought long and hard to have a locally elected board to govern our schools,” Taylor wrote. “It would be shameful to have our rights revoked again for impediments. It sets a poor example for the students we all represent, and it will not be tolerated by this Board.”

Wednesday morning, Moore said she plans to continue her vocal advocacy, even if it’s disruptive.

“If that’s the only avenue we have to get our point across, when they don’t allow us to speak, then we must take every avenue,” Moore said. “Time is of the essence with our children. And they spend too much time with distractions, listening to the mayor, listening to the corporations, and not listening to people who have children in the public schools.”

Moore, who is active with an organization called Keep the Vote/No Takeover Coalition and with the National Action Network, said she fought for years for Detroiters to again have a locally elected school board. City residents did not have control of their schools for most of the last two decades.

“We worked like crazy,” Moore said, but she asserts that most school board members are “naive.”

“They don’t know the history,” she said. “They need to be educated and that goes for Dr. Vitti too. We need to educate them and that was a first start.”

The board has scheduled a special meeting for 12:30 p.m. Thursday at its Fisher Building headquarters where it can return to its unfinished business from Tuesday.

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit activist Helen Moore waved to her fellow activisits from the stage at Mumford High School. She returned to the room after her removal from the auditorium prompted loud objections that led to a school board meeting’s abrupt ending on March 13, 2018.