Campaign cash

Contributions flowing in education-related races

With the November election only three months away, candidates and campaign committees are building their war chests in races with implications for education.

In battleground Jefferson County, two Democratic senators with seats on the Senate Education Committee each have raised more than $100,000 in the fights to hold their seats.

And both sides in the fight over Amendment 68, which would expand casino gambling and give a cut of revenues to school districts, already have raised a total of more than $13 million. Only about $11 million was spent in last year’s campaign for defeated Amendment 66, which would have raised income taxes by about $1 billion to support schools.

Campaign committees had to report their most recent and cumulative fundraising by last Friday. The next deadline is Sept. 2, after which reports have to be made every two weeks until the Nov. 4 election.

Key Senate races

In four pivotal Senate races, Democrats so far have outraised Republicans $356,586 to $158,323.

Andy Kerr, the Lakewood Democrat was chairs the Senate Education Committee, has raised $114,193 in his District 22 battle with conservative businessman Tony Sanchez, who was the victor in a tough Republican primary.

Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, who was appointed last December to replace Democrat Evie Hudak, has received contributions totaling $102,172, compared to $67,659 for Republican Laura Woods, a gun-rights activist who also prevailed in the District 19 GOP primary. Zenzinger also sits on Senate Education.

In Colorado Springs, former House Education Committee chair Mike Merrifield is trying to retake the District 11 seat for the Democrats. GOP Sen. Bernie Herpin won the seat last year in a recall election related to gun rights. The outspoken Merrifield, a former teacher, was generally critical of education reform efforts. He’s raised $80,381 to Herpin’s $40,277.

Former Democratic Rep. Judy Solano, a strong critic of standardized testing, is seeking to return to the Capitol as senator from District 24 in Adams County. She’s raised $62,840 compared to $4,859 for GOP candidate Beth Martinez Humenik. The seat is being vacated by term-limited Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton.

Democrats have only an 18-17 majority in the Senate, and these four races, along with a few others that don’t have education ties, are considered crucial for the future balance of power in that chamber.

House races to watch

Five Democratic members of the House Education Committee also are significantly outraising their Republican challengers.

Rep. Millie Hamner of Dillon has raised $43,240 compared for $13,519 for Debra Irvine, her GOP opponent in District 61. Hamner is chair of House Education and was a central figure in 2014’s school finance debates. She defeated Irvine two years ago.

First-term Rep. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood has raised $73,525 in her District 28 contest with lawyer Stacia Kuhn, who’s gathered $7,914 in contrubtions.

In Greeley, Rep. Dave Young has received contributions of $69,070 in his race with GOP businessman Isaia Aricayos, who’s raised $27,154.

Rep. John Buckner of Aurora has raised $37,113 in his District 40 race with Republican Aurora school board member JulieMarie Shepherd, who’s gathered a $5,786 campaign fund.

Also in Aurora, Rep. Rhonda Fields has contributions of $22,351, while District 42 GOP hopeful Mike Donald has raised only $845.

The Public Education Committee, a small-donor committee connected to the Colorado Education Association, reports having raised $230,000 in the current election cycle and having spent $137,850.

It’s given Kerr $4,900, and $4,500 contributions have gone to Buckner, Merrifield, Pettersen, Solano and Young. Fields and Hamner received smaller amounts. The committee also has made contributions to other Democratic legislative and statewide candidates and to campaign committees affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Big money anted in casino contest

The opposing sides in the Amendment 68 contest have raised a total of $13.2 million, with opponents in the lead at $9.1 million through June. (The group Don’t Turn Racetracks Into Casinos reported no new contributions in July.) The campaign is being bankrolled by companies that own existing casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek.

The $4.1 million raised by the committee Coloradans for Better Schools has been given almost entirely by Mile High USA Inc., the company that owns Arapahoe Park racetrack. A full casino would be built there if A68 passes.

Modest fundraising in SBE contests

Democrats also are raising the largest amounts of money in two contested races for the State Board of Education.

In suburban District 7, Democratic incumbent Jane Goff has raised $11,990 compared to $1,870 for Republican Laura Boggs, a former Jeffco school board member.

In District 3, which stretches from northwestern Colorado to Pueblo, GOP incumbent Marcia Neal has raised $6,050, all but $1,808 of which she spent on a primary race. Democrat Henry Roman, former superintendent of the Pueblo 60 district, has raised $10,754 and has $9,486 still in the bank.

In Denver-based District 1, Democrat Val Flores has raised $17,931 and spent virtually all of it in a primary. She doesn’t have a Republican opponent.

Taggart Hansen, Flores’ primary opponent, raised $36,448 in his losing effort. Two independent expenditure committees, which act independently of a candidate’s committee, also raised significant funds. The BSSC Committee, which is affiliated with Stand for Children, spent $49,291 in support of Hansen. Raising Colorado, a group connected to Democrats for Education Reform, spent $47,062. So, Hansen and the two groups raised more than $130,000, seven times the amount raised by Flores for a low-turnout race that she won with 59 percent of the vote.

This story was updated on Aug. 5 to correct information about Judy Solano’s district and JulieMarie Shepherd’s current position.


¿Cuantos niños en su escuela son inmunizados?

Monserrat Cholico, 8, en la Crawford Kids Clinic en Aurora en 2015 (Denver Post).

Chalkbeat recolectó datos para ayudar a los padres a entender si las escuelas de sus hijos están protegidos de enfermedades. Busque su escuela en nuestra base de datos.

“Immunization rate” representa el porcentaje de estudiantes que están totalmente inmunizados.

“Exemption rate” representa el porcentaje de estudiantes cuyos padres optaron por no vacunar a sus hijos.

“Compliance rate” representa el porcentaje de estudiantes que están siguiendo la ley de Colorado. La ley dice que los estudiantes deben obtener vacunas o firmar formularios de exención.

Choosing college

State’s college attendance rate shows slight turnaround

PHOTO: Oliver Morrison

The percentage of Colorado high school students enrolling in college right after graduation increased slightly in 2014, according to a new report from the Department of Higher Education.

Of 2014’s 53,771 graduates, 55.8 percent went on to college immediately, up from the 2013 rate but three percentage points below the record in 2009, according to the Report on the Postsecondary Progress and Success of High School Graduates (full copy at bottom of this article).

In the recession year of 2009, when the state started compiling the report, 58.8 percent of high school grads went to college.

“The most recent, 2014, is the first cohort whose enrollment rate increased from the previous year,” the report noted. “Previously, all graduating classes included in this report had a lower enrollment rate than their previous year.”

The report “is good news because so many of the jobs in our technology and information based economy require post-secondary credentials,” said Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who’s also executive director of the department. “However, the report also reveals that we have continuing and significant gaps in post-secondary outcomes and that students from certain demographic groups are doing much better than others. If we are to meet our education and workforce goals, we must do a better job of supporting low income, rural, and minority students so that they graduate with a credential that will lead to a living wage job.”

Overall college enrollment tends to rise when the economy is weak and drop when times improve. Fall enrollment in 2014 was 251,778, down from the recent high of 284,405 in 2011.

The report details continuing disparities between demographic groups in college attendance and success. Postsecondary enrollment for Latino students is nearly 20 percentage points below white students, and, after their first year of college, African-American students on average earn nearly 10 fewer credits than white students, it said.

“As Colorado’s demographics continue to change and labor markets increasingly demand quality postsecondary credentials, ensuring the state’s future economic prosperity requires that these educational gaps be highlighted and strategically addressed,” the report said.

The report also breaks out college-going rates for individual districts. The district with the highest college attendance rate was Limon, with 84.4 percent of its 32 2014 graduates going on to higher education.

Larger districts in the top 10 included Cheyenne Mountain, Douglas County, Lewis-Palmer and Littleton.

The Plateau Valley district in eastern Mesa County had the lowest rate, 16 percent. Metro-area districts in the bottom 10 included Adams 14, Englewood, Sheridan and Westminster.

Some 76 percent of 2014 grads attended Colorado colleges, and 74 percent of those students attended four-year schools. The most popular schools were Colorado State University and the University of Colorado Boulder. Front Range Community College attracted the largest number of students enrolling in two-year schools.

The annual study examines not only college-going rates but also grade point averages, credits earned, persistence and graduation rates going back to the class of 2009.

Members of the high school class of 2014 who attended Colorado colleges had an average grade point average of 2.78 during their freshman year. Those students completed an average of 30 credits by the end of 2014-15.

Search for your district’s college-going rates here:

And read the Department of Higher Education’s report here: